On Thursday, January 18th, the over 40 acequia leaders packed a room at the State Capitol to present the New Mexico Acequia Association legislative priorities for the 2007 session. Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the NMAA said that the Year of Water has to be inclusive of acequias and she outlined the broad policies priorities of the Association, “First, we seek to protect and manage our water rights for the benefit of our communities. Second, we are rebuilding our agricultural economy and strengthening our land-based way of life. Third, we are seeking a reinvestment in acequia infrastructure.” The meeting received coverage in the Santa Fe New Mexican on Friday, January 19th.
Several legislators attended the presentation including Senator Carlos Cisneros, Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Phil Griego, Chairman of the Senate Conservation Committee, Representative Tomas Garcia, Representative Kathy McCoy, and Representative Debbie Rodella. In addition, Regis Pecos, staffer for Speaker of the House Ben Lujan, addressed the group of acequia leaders.
Antonio Medina, NMAA President, said, “We the acequias are here at the state legislature are here out of necessity. We are defending our way of life.” Several acequia officials were present for the purpose of getting the capital outlay requests completed. NMAA had a workstation where acequias completed forms and obtained required signatures from legislators.
NMAA is promoting four reservoirs as statewide priorities including Santa Cruz Reservoir, Cabresto Dam, Morphy Lake, and Tularosa Reservoir. Dozens of acequias are seeking capital outlay from their legislators. NMAA is also asking for support for the following appropriations:
- $500k for Acequia Governance Education, Training and Technical Assistance. Appropriation to Department of Finance and Administration, Local Government Division to provide assistance to acequias on governance and infrastructure planning.
- $250k for Acequia Agricultural Revitalization. Appropriation to Department of Agriculture for promotion of acequia grown foods and a farmer education pilot project.
- $575k for Acequia and Community Ditch Fund. Appropriation to Department of Agriculture for legal defense for acequias in adjudication.
- $600k for Acequia Rehabilitation Program to the Interstate Stream Commission to leverage federal funds for acequia repair and rehabilitation.
- $130k for New Mexico Acequia Commission. Appropriation to DFA for staffing of Commission.
With regard to legislation, NMAA is asking legislators to introduce legislation on the following:
- Domestic Well Transferability: This would clarify that water rights from domestic well permits are transferable to projects organized under the Sanitary Projects Act.
- Public Welfare and Conservation: This would require that the State Engineer make specific findings and conclusions about public welfare and conservation in water transfer applications.
- Native Seeds and Food Security: A memorial would recognize the importance of native seeds and indigenous agricultural practices to food security in New Mexico.
On other legislative issues, NMAA hopes to work with other groups to amend legislation addressing eminent domain and funding for the Land, Wildlife, and Conservation, where the Association hopes to ensure acequia representation on that board and to secure set asides for agricultural conservation easements.