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Acequia Community Spotlight: Jemez River Basin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilbert Sandoval, President of Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias.  The Coalition works together to prioritize infrastructure projects and applies as a group, with Gilbert's acequia as a fiscal agent, for Capital Outlay funds. Since 2007, they have invested $394,000  in local projects benefiting 14 acequias. 
 
As the New Year approaches many acequia Commissioners and parciantes are eagerly waiting and preparing for the following year of infrastructure tasks and acequia management. For many Acequias it is during the off season that they organize and prepare to submit an Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP) and apply for Capital Outlay funding, a familiar process to some and a great endeavor for others. Interested in better understanding the process involved in applying for and managing funds awarded to an acequia, I sought out the guidance of Gilbert Sandoval, a wise and experienced acequiero. Gilbert Sandoval is the Mayordomo of the East Sandoval Acequia and President of the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias.
 
It was in 2007 that Mr. Sandoval was instructed at a New Mexico Acequia Association training season on how to prepare the Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan (ICIP). During this time he learned the process and went ahead and submitted his first ICIP. Mr. Sandoval explained to me that in order to submit to DFA he needed to have a letter of resolution by the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias board. Since the Coalition is a non-profit organization it could not receive and manage state funds. Mr. Sandoval on behalf of the East Sandoval Acequia was appropriated the Capital Outlay funding which would manage and pass through the funding to other acequias. Mr. Sandoval informed me that "an acequia is considered an entity of the government and can serve as a fiscal agent, unlike the Coalition which could not serve as a fiscal agent." An Acequia has to have an active commission in order to be a fiscal agent.
 
Mr. Sandoval drafted a resolution within the guidelines of the ICIP process. He presented the resolution to the board members of the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias. After the resolution was passed, the plan was submitted with the understanding that the funds received would then be disbursed to various acequia commissions within the Jemez River Basin. At the same time, the Coalition board members who signed the resolution suggested that acequia named East Sandoval Acequia should be designated as the fiscal agent.
 
With the East Sandoval Ditch officially the fiscal agent, and everything in order, Mr. Sandoval submitted plans that following legislative season, had sponsorship forms signed by his representative, and submitted plans with requests for funds. The plans require that you list priority jobs that need to be completed by Acequias. Mr. Sandoval explained to me that he was "able to easily list the projects that needed to be complete along with the priority of each project." Mr. Sandoval had completed a basic master plan through the Bureau of Reclamation, which listed all the infrastructure priorities of the whole basin.
 
The Jemez River basin Coalition of Acequias is comprised of 14 Acequias. Mr. Sandoval informed me that "the advantage of consolidating ICIP requests going out of Jemez basin is that  instead of 14 individual Acequias applying for funds, only one request is made that benefits 14 Acequias." East Sandoval Acequia bank account received the money they had applied for totaling $50,000. After funds were received a meeting was held with the Acequias to confirm priorities of use for the funds, along with establishing an estimated cost for each project that needed to be completed.
 
Mr. Sandoval on behalf of the East Sandoval Acequia then distributed the money to the Acequias with enough money to cover the prioritized items. The East Sandoval Acequia handled the disbursement of the money through the Interstate Stream Commission. Mr. Sandoval over saw all the projects that took place. He was required to track and report the work completed, the money spent and all the information needed for the Office of the State Auditor and the Department of Finance Administration.
 
The money was spent, the work was done and at the same time Mr. Sandoval instructed the commissioners of other Acequias on how to request and obtain valid invoices for their work, to get bids, and meet state compliance. Mr. Sandoval explained that "a lot of the work was done by parciantes. They would send invoices to me, and I would then send them off to the Interstate Stream Commission and then reimburse Acequias for expenditures." He informed me that "initially a lot of the acequias did not have capital needed to initiate the project."  As a result of this dilemma, Mr. Sandoval had a meeting with the board of the Coalition and helped developed a plan that would allow the Coalition to loan money from Coalition funds to the Acequias. This allowed the Acequias to initiate their projects. The Interstate Stream Commission would then make a payment to the acequia, the acequia would then use that money to pay back the loan.
 
As a result of following this model for over 10 years and all the hard work from Gilbert Sandoval, the Jemez River Basin Coalition of Acequias, various commissioners and parciantes the Jemez River basin has received a total of $395,000 that has been distributed amongst the acequias. The projects completed include, a new diversion dam, new head gates, culverts, farm gates. They have also removed rocks, debris and silt from reservoirs totaling more than 5000 cubic yards. Mr. Sandoval encourages everyone to take advantage of the ICIP process to effectively plan Acequia projects, request funds in accordance with those plans, implement successful projects … and "Don't give up."