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Rio de Gallinas Adjudication

March 16, 2016 
 In 2004 the Supreme Court overturned the ruling that recognized the Pueblo Doctrine and remanded the case to District Court with instructions to the court to seek a solution that would provide an equitable remedy. One that would strike an appropriate balance between the reliance interests of the City, the reliance interests of other water users, and the regulatory interests of the State Engineer. Today this litigation continues in what we know as the Remand.  City's lawyers argue that an equitable remedy for the City would be to award an 1835 priority for a portion (1200 acre feet) of the City's already adjudicated water rights. The current adjudicated priority is January 1, 1881. We disagree. 

In exchange for this earlier priority, the City has offered to pay the acequias one million dollars if the acequias would accept this settlement. According to the City's attorney the eleven community acequias could divide and use the money as the acequias wished. Some suggestions made were to make improvements to the acequias or to use the money to pay the legal expenses of the acequias.The acequias have rejected the offer and have stated that it is the acequias' seniority that protects them.  

The acequias believe litigation is not the answer and have offered the sharing water as better solution. It is the custom of the acequias to share available water and we have in the past agreed to share water with our community regardless of priority. This willingness to share water has helped our community make it through a recent period of drought that compared to the drought of the 1950's.  


Two previous legal rulings in the same District Court have already rejected the 1835 priority date claimed. Publicly we have heard from City staff and Mayor Ortiz that the only reasons the 1835 priority claim is needed to protect our community against a priority call and to use it against the acequias if necessary.  


For years, the acequia leadership has attempted to work with our community to share water. Hundreds of hours at meetings and hearings have been expended toward that effort. However today we still find ourselves in litigation and have not come to some resolution. We have spend millions of our tax dollars on this litigation without resolution.     


While we could certainly use the million dollars offered, it is not enough to accomplish improvements your experts have suggested. Even if we had the millions to make those improvements, it would take years to accomplish this.

We are not here today to resolve this litigation, but we are here to inform you our differences may be resolved and how further litigation can be avoided if can work together.  


The acequias believe solution includes a withdrawal of the community's claim to bring an end to the litigation. Developing a sharing agreement that meets the needs of all parties is needed as well. Sharing has been done before and can be done again. Let us not forget that the lawyers work for us and that this is our community. Together, we can work for the betterment of the entire community if we are included.

Litigation in most cases can be avoided if productive discussions and agreements can be reached. The current administration has not seen it necessary to involve the acequias, despite the recommendation by the State Engineer to involve all the shareholders in the development of storage options for the City.


This lack of participation during the planning and negotiation process leaves the acequias with little recourse to protect their interests. We are left with the filing of protests through the permit process to force disclosure of those projects and more legal costs may be the only option for us. This route would continue to feed litigation efforts of the attorneys for years to come and delay many projects. We may avoid this litigation through a negotiation process prior to the submission of permit applications for expansion of storage.  


While we generally support the idea of increased storage, we wonder about the benefit and impact to our community and the acequias if water in storage is not used, as has been the case in the past.  


Any management agreement reached now must be able to protect all parties now and in the future. The challenges we face are many when it comes to water. Discussion and not litigation is perhaps the best approach.           Challenge your attorney to explain to our community why and how is this litigation is necessary and good for us.   Recognize the negative impacts this endless litigation has already had on the entire community. Acknowledge that our community has benefited for years at the expense of the families along the acequias, whose water has been taken. Understand the economic benefits as well as the health benefits of a vibrant agricultural economy for Las Vegas.


The issues and concerns are many. We must trust and continue to seek resolution without litigation and division of our community. Help our community and families develop the agricultural capacities to grow an economic environment that will benefit everyone, while providing water for the community.   Let's bring this litigation to an end. Let's do what should have been done in the first place over six decades ago; involve all shareholders when changes in water management are necessary.    


As we work together to rebuild our relationship, there are some areas where we can work to solve immediately. For example, the Acequia Madre de Los Romeros has for many years struggled with clogged culverts on 8th Street and the Palo Verde Sub-division.   The City has helped in some years by using the Vac-Truck to force debris and trash out, however the acequia believes that those culverts need to be replaced. Thus, far the City has not taken action to replace the culverts. Litter and trash issues exist and perhaps this is another area where out joint effort may help. This issues exist around schools and in the downtown area along the Acequia Madre de Las Vegas.


In closing, we thank you for allowing us to address you and we look forward to having meaningful and honest discussions as to how we can work together to solve our water issues. Litigation is not the answer!