It is hard work being a Commissioner or Mayordomo. Our elected officials must balance tending their own fields, family, employment, other community duties as well as the growing and shifting responsibilities of guiding their local bodies of government. It is a duty that we pay honor to and respect. Informed and supported Commissions are key in the struggle to protect water rights and keep them in our acequia communities. Thus, NMAA has committed to the Conference for Commissioners and Mayordomos being a regular fixture in our annual calendar as tool to serve and support. We also want to encourage youth, the next generation acequia leadership to participate in this conference to build the skills fortalecer el movimiento en defensa del agua.
This year we had 75 participants from acequias across the state. We thank and celebrate all of you for making the time and effort and for bringing the knowledge back to your communities. For those of you who could not be there or who like a reminder here is a little recap: Given the extreme weather fluctuations of drought and flood cycles and the damage they bring we hosted two sessions to address these issues "21st Century Acequias: Infrastructure Designs and Funding availability and Adapting to Drought and Floods. In the first session on funding we features Steve Carson a parciantes on the Acequia del Rancho in Santa Fe County and the Owner of "Range Hands" an outfit offers Natural Channel Design Irrigation Diversions. Mr. Carson explained the basic science of how this works, and how by pushing the flow of the river to the center less damage is done to the banks, as well, as how certain diversion structures and special presas they install greatly reduce sedimentation. He can be reached at (505) 470-3542.
Peter Vigil from the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District then got us on our feet and made sure we were all feeling the motivation and urgency of maintaining our acequia's infrastructure. He reminded us at the heart of this work is our querencia. Norm Vigil of New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts reminded us what the new Regional Conservation Partners Program has to offer acequias. This Federally funded program established by a coordinated effort of various groups, including NMAA, who offers technical assistance to acequias in assessing their needs and offers funding to acquire designs as well as implement designs, ideally matching up with other funding sources as well. The first application deadline closed in June 2015. The program was inundated with requests affirming the needs of acequias. Our very own Paula Garcia rounded out the plactica with perspectives on capital outlay, Interstate Stream funding and how to manage and tie together all of the funding options. As always NMAA is here to support your acequia in wading through the paper work and making sense of it all. Don't hesitate to call us!
In our Adapting to drought and Floods section Jan-Willem Jansens of Ecotone wowed us with an array of options of how to prevent flood and erosion damage while warding off the effects of drought. Brian Williams of the New Mexico Homeland Security and Emergency Management reminded us bureaucrats can be compassionate. He was real with us about the challenges to accessing FEMA funds when your acequia has experienced a disaster, while also encouraging us and coaching us on the process. The most important thing to remember is that when your acequia has damage due to an extreme weather event be sure to report it to your county's emergency manager.
After a delicious lunch we were treated to a panel of acequia leaders speaking to "Cultivating Leadership to Serve as Commissioners and Mayordomos". Every acequia had its own unique story to tell of the challenges and triumphs of filling its leadership roles. NMAA created a hand out to help each acequia prepare and brainstorm in order to develop a plan for your own acequia. As stated before a strong commission informed of its rights and knowing its history is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy future for acequias. We urge all acequias to carefully consider how you will train the next generation of leadership and encourage you to share your stories with us.
Finally, our dear friends and allies, lawyers David Benevides and Enrique Romero of New Mexico Legal Aid shared on the importance of including the water transfers appendix in your acequias bylaws. They emphasized the need follow the legal process to best protect the acequia when water transfers come up. NMAA and NMLA can assist acequias, both with the bylaws and in how to manage a transfer when it comes up. This was followed by the ever popular question and answer session. A plethora of interesting questions came up. Some of those that we did not have time to answer will be addressed in our new "Ask a lawyer" series in our Quarterly newsletter.
We are already busy planning for next year's Commissioner and Mayordomo conference.
We invite you all to join us again next year. In the meantime keep calling when questions arise, and thank you for your service.