Opin­ions & Editorial Ari­zona Wa­ter Rights Best In­ter­ests

Catron Courier - - Front Page -

By Kelly Kuen­stler, Luna County Man­ager and Richard F. McIn­turff, Dem­ing City Ad­min­is­tra­tor

There has been sev­eral items of in­ter­est printed re­cently sur­round­ing the Ari­zona Wa­ter Rights Set­tle­ment Act and its po­ten­tial ef­fect on the Gila River. We write this editorial in an ef­fort to pro­vide ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion and to com­pli­ment the lo­cal gov­ern­ments work­ing to­gether in an ef­fort to keep these pre­cious re­sources in the south­west­ern cor­ner of New Mex­ico, were it right­fully be­longs.

The Ari­zona Wa­ter Rights Set­tle­ment Act of 2004 pro­vides up to 14,000 acre-feet of wa­ter to be di­verted and con­sump­tively used in New Mex­ico. This wa­ter is the LAST new wa­ter from the south­west­ern cor­ner of the State will ever have avail­able for cur­rent and fu­ture uses. If we do not take ad­van­tage of the right to use it in the four county area, the wa­ter will be used some­where else in New Mex­ico and our abil­ity to use it will be lost for­ever. The fu­ture of the south­west­ern four coun­ties de­pends on se­cur­ing the right to use this wa­ter to­day.

If the cur­rent drought has taught us one thing, it should be that a price can­not be at­tached to the value of wa­ter. When there is no wa­ter avail­able, hav­ing it is price­less. We must make de­ci­sions that are fi­nan­cially re­spon­si­ble and pro­vide the re­sources we need to se­cure the fu­ture of our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren. Wa­ter di­verted from the Gila River un­der the Act will be mon­i­tored to com­ply with very strict di­ver­sion lim­its that only al­low flood flows to be cap­tured. These flood flow di­ver­sions will not “de­stroy” the river as cer­tain groups are try­ing to im­ply.

Other im­por­tant fac­tors to take into con­sid­er­a­tion re­gard­ing the project in­clude:

1. If the project comes to fruition, this will be the third largest lake in New Mex­ico.

2. The eco­nomic ben­e­fits of this will be real and sus­tain­able. This project will not “de­stroy” the Gila River—far from it. Di­ver­sion can only oc­cur dur­ing high flows when there is an ex­cess, and could be re­turned if nec­es­sary dur­ing droughts to keep the river wet, help­ing both famers and the river. The terms of the di­ver­sion were care­fully crafted to en­sure that the ecologic func­tion of the river can not only be fully pro­tected, but can even be im­proved. It should not be a prob­lem to help the river and help the users too!

3. A con­tin­ued pump­ing of ground­wa­ter is only a short term so­lu­tion. We are de­plet­ing our ground wa­ter faster than it is be­ing recharged. Devel­op­ment of the new Gila wa­ter un­der the AWSA, a re­new­able sup­ply, will be re­quired to pro­vide for fu­ture needs.

4. The 14,000 acre feet of wa­ter avail­able to New Mex­ico on the Gila is go­ing to be the last new wa­ter in the very dry south­ern part of the State. Pass­ing it up is just not ra­tio­nal.

5. We should let New Mex­ico’s past his­tory be a guide. In the early 1960’s, Clo­vis and Por­tales could have de­vel­oped the safe yield from the Ute Reser­voir for about $43 mil­lion dol­lars. They didn’t. To­day it is go­ing to cost them over $500 mil­lion dol­lars.

6. Albuquerque and Santa Fe claimed in the 1950’s that they had an in­ex­haustible sup­ply of wa­ter. Yet, in the late 1950’s they still signed on to the San Juan Chama project. If they had not done this, they would have had to find that wa­ter some­where else and the cost would have been in the bil­lions.

7. In­vest­ments in nat­u­ral re­sources, from the Louisiana Pur­chase to Alaska and the Gila, al­ways pay off in the end.

We com­ple­ment the county gov­ern­ments in Grant, Hi­dalgo, Luna and Caron coun­ties for work­ing to­gether to cre­ation so­lu­tions for south­west­ern New Mex­ico. We ap­plaud lo­cal officials for look­ing to the fu­ture and at­tempt­ing to avoid the pas­sage of huge debt to our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren by act­ing now in a re­spon­si­ble way. By Dennis In­man

How of­ten have you heard that some­thing is be­ing pro­posed with your ‘best in­ter­est’ in mind? What this person or group is say­ing, is that it is in my best in­ter­est; for you to be­lieve that what is be­ing pro­posed is in your best in­ter­est. These are usu­ally agenda driven pro­pos­als that are on the sur­face well in­tended but gen­er­ally not in your best in­ter­est. I be­lieve that what is in my best in­ter­est is de­rived from my thoughts and not some­one else’s. I am ca­pa­ble of de­cid­ing what is best for me.

We join groups or or­ga­ni­za­tions that have what we be­lieve are sim­i­lar goals or ob­jec­tives and con­sid­ered that this group think is in our best in­ter­est. How­ever, we may not think that a dis­sim­i­lar group or an op­pos­ing group has our best in­ter­est in mind. I think that a ‘red flag’ should go up ev­ery time we heard that some­thing is in our best in­ter­est.

The Au­gustin Plains Ranch, LLC pro­posal to pump 54,000 acre feet of wa­ter an­nu­ally from the San Au­gustin Plains is be­ing pushed by the LLC as be­ing in our best in­ter­est. This in­cludes not only the peo­ple who live within the plains but all of the peo­ple of New Mex­ico. Pri­va­ti­za­tion of wa­ter within the state is not in my best in­ter­est.

My hope is that most of the peo­ple within the State agree with my po­si­tion and that the State Engi­neer un­der­stands there is more at stake than not hav­ing a valid ap­pli­ca­tion on the LLC’s part. It is bad enough that wa­ter could be pri­va­tized in this state but to have it be­ing con­trolled by a for­eign group is un­con­scionable.

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