Dear Acequia Commissioners and Mayordomos,
NMAA would like to provide some updated recommendations as many of you complete your limpias and schedule annual meetings. These are based off of the recent Public Health Order (PHO), issued February 24, 2021.
You may have heard of the new county by county color coded rating system, regarding the level of risk in spreading Covid. The “dashboard” showing the color rating is updated every other week, this means that the color rating could change from the time you announce an activity to the time you actually hold a gathering, please monitor the dashboard at: https://cvprovider.nmhealth.org/public-dashboard.html
We encourage every acequia to assess how they can best keep their community safe, while continuing our vital practices of holding meetings and cleaning the acequias.
Key points in the Public Health Order:
- Red Counties – Max public gathering is 5 individuals
- Yellow Counties – Max public gathering is 10 individuals
- Green Counties: Max public gathering is 20 individuals
- Turquoise Counties – Max public gatherings 150 individuals
A “mass gathering” is any public or private gathering, or grouping that brings together individuals in an indoor OR outdoor space. All activities, whether indoor or outdoor, still require social distancing (minimum 6 feet distance) and Covid safe measures, such as wearing masks (given the highly communicable variants now in circulation, the CDC advises “double masking”). While some counties (Green and Turquoise) may begin to allow limited reopening of certain indoor facilities, including community centers, other counties continue to prohibit indoor mass gatherings. For example, recreational facilities, like community centers, are not allowed to open for indoor gatherings in Yellow and Red counties. Meetings can be inside or outside, but each color code states the reduced level of occupancy for both indoor and outdoor spaces. See details: https://cv.nmhealth.org/public-health-orders-and-executive-orders/red-to-green/
Further Guidance for ACEQUIA CLEANINGS
Acequias may be considered “essential businesses” in the context of acequia cleanings because they manage and control critical water infrastructure. On the one hand, acequias are therefore given discretion even in Yellow and Red counties to operate but must limit operations to only those absolutely necessary to carry out essential functions. On the other hand, , due to the physical exertion involved in acequia cleanings, certain precautions should be taken to minimize potential exposure to Covid.
Some ideas on how to safely and effectively conduct cleanings include:
- Keep Crews under the max mass gathering allowance for your county.
- If a larger number of individuals is needed to complete work, assign crews to a section of the ditch and do not gather as one large group. We have seen acequias give assignments to each car separately, organize individuals in advance, etc.
- You could also schedule groups of parciantes and peonies to come on separate days.
- Consider what will work best for your ditch.
- Individuals in work crews should always stay a minimum of 6 feet apart and wear masks.
- Hire one crew to clean the entire ditch in order to limit potential exposure to large numbers of people. We have spoken to a number of acequias who decided the safest and easiest option was to hire one consistent group of workers to clean the entire ditch with the supervision of the Commission and or Mayordomo. While this means not all parciantes will be able to participate, it ensures the task is completed.
- Some acequias have opted to “excuse” members who are at higher risk due to age or other health considerations.
Whatever method you choose we encourage you to stay safe, take pictures and share with us any lessons learned, or methodologies we have not considered! Send pics and or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Further Guidance for ACEQUIA MEETINGS
Acequias should adhere to the county restrictions imposed by the recent health order when scheduling any acequia meeting. Acequias should also remember that the guidance from the Attorney General that we have shared over the course of the last year is still in effect. If you do not have urgent business you may opt to not hold your meeting. If you do not hold your annual meeting, it is encouraged that you still communicate with your parciantes via other means such as email, phone or snail mail.
If you choose to have a meeting, the AG recommends that the meeting be held remotely. NMAA continues to offer technical hosting of zoom meetings which accommodate people calling in from a phone and video conferencing at the same time. We can also assist with the proper noticing of the remote meeting. Contact email@example.com for more assistance.
Things to consider:
- Both in-person and remote meetings have their pros and cons. Some people may feel unsafe meeting in person, others prefer it, not all individuals are equally open or comfortable with remote meetings, and others find it more accessible. You need to weigh what will be most safe, productive and inclusive for your acequia.
- Quorum – If your acequia needs a quorum that is greater than the max mass meeting attendance in your county your only option is to have a remote meeting.
- Keeping the Meeting to the Appropriate Size – If you want to have an in-person meeting but are concerned you may get more than the number of participants the PHO allows, then urge members to RSVP the day prior. Include in your notice that if you have more RSVPs than the amount allowed you will have to hold the meeting remotely or cancel. The goal is to encourage participation, so we don’t want to discourage any one from RSVPing.
- Noticing Outdoor Meetings – In accordance with the Open Meetings Act, the location of your gathering needs to be publicly accessible and the location well described in your meeting notice. This might include a physical address along with a description of where in the parking lot of “X” building you will be meeting.
- Noticing All Activities – It should be clear in communications for cleanings or meetings that social distancing and face masks are required by all participants. No one with covid symptoms should be participating.
- Informational Meetings – If you do not feel you can get a quorum by either means, you can still have an informational meeting where NO ACTIONS are taken (aka no items are decided on, even approving the agenda). Informational meetings should still be properly noticed and can be in-person or remote.
- “Mass gatherings” and public officials – The PHO’s definition of “mass gathering” excludes the gathering of public officials working in the course and scope of completing their officials duties. Acequia commissioners and mayordomos may continue to meet, provided that they are socially distanced and masked. However, because meetings of commissioners are public meetings they must be properly noticed. Given that any parciante and member of the public may attend a commission meeting, please plan accordingly and consider whether the meeting is better held remotely or in person to ensure that the meeting does not run afoul of the PHO. Once members attend the meeting, a commission meeting may be considered a “mass gathering” and the public official exclusion may no longer apply to that meeting.