Thank you to everyone who shared their art, stories and photography with the 2022 Acequia Art Contest. Explore the winning entries below. All work was also shared at the 2022 Congreso de Las Acequias on December 9th & 10th, 2022!
First Prize, Adult Art – “El angel, el santo y las acequia” by Anita Rodriguez of Taos
Second Prize, Adult Art – “Water Is Life” by Karen Blair, Acequia Madre de Rio Costilla
Third Prize, Adult Art – “Spring on the Acequia” by Terry Davis, Acequia Madre del Llano, Arroyo Hondo
Runner Up, Adult Art – “Todo lo que soy, se lo debo a mi Madre” by Ariana Montez, Acequia Madre de Santa Fe
First Prize, Adult Photo – Food Traditions Category – “Peach trees on an acequia plot” by Anita Walsh, Corrales Lateral Ditch
Second Prize, Adult Photo – Food Traditions Category – “Martinez Traditions” by Jolene Vigil, Acequia de Martinez de Abajo
Third Prize, Adult Photo – Food Traditions Category – By Anna Soto, Ponderosa Community Ditch
First Prize, Adult Photo – Regando Category – “Springtime Planting” by Billy Vigil, Cundiyo
Second Prize, Adult Photo – Regando Category – “The oldest sections of our acequias which were lined with rock by my ancestors” by Sandy Escarcida, Las Acequias de Placitas
Third Prize, Adult Photo – Regando Category – “Rebuilding of the El Zaguán portion of the Canyon Road Community Ditch” by Mara Saxer
First Prize, Adult Photo – Acequieros Working The Land Category – by Donatella Davanzo
Second Prize, Adult Photo – Acequieros Working The Land Category – “Planting garlic in mixed, irrigated plot of fruit trees and herbs” by Anita Walsh, Corrales Lateral Ditch
Third Prize, Adult Photo – Acequieros Working The Land Category – “La Pala” by Anna Soto, Ponderosa Community Ditch
Runner up, Adult Storytelling – “Opening Minds & Lifting Hearts at Sanchez Farm Open Space” essay by Nell Burrus of Arenal Acequia, Albuquerque – click here to read the essayPhoto of Sanchez Farms via Bernalillo County
Youth Photo Winner – “Basket of Calabasitas” by Zachary Nash Archuleta, Southside Acequia, Vadito
Youth Art Winner – “Thriving Communities” by Selene Duran, Los Cordovas #1 Acequia, Taos
Acequia Parciantes living anywhere below the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Burn scar – the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) application is DUE JULY 1. This program is meant to mitigate loss of life and damage to property. Flood damage can occur 30 miles downstream from the burn scar. The cost-share has been eliminated so this program is free. See important application documents below.
PLEASE COPY AND PASTE THE SAMPLE LETTER BELOW TO MAKE A COMMENT ON THE TAOS SKI VALLEY EXPANSION PROJECT. LETTERS ARE DUE BY MAY 6TH.
FOR MORE DETAILS AND INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR LETTER, SEE OUR NEWS POST HERE: https://conta.cc/3vEdUhb
James Duran, Forest Supervisor
c/o Paul Schilke, Winter Sports Coordinator
P.O. Box 110 Questa, NM 87556
Re: Taos Ski Valley Gondola and Other Improvements Project
Dear Supervisor Duran:
My name is [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE] and I am a [INSERT YOUR ROLE – COMMISSIONER/PARCIANTE/MEMBER OF…] the [INSERT ACEQUIA OR COMMUNITY NAME].
[IF DESIRED – ADD A SENTENCE ABOUT WHY THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT TO YOU, OR DELETE THIS LINE]
I strongly urge the Carson National Forest to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS) to meaningfully address the many negative ecological and environmental justice impacts, including cultural and socioeconomic impacts, the “Taos Ski Valley Gondola and Other Improvements Project” (Project) will have on my acequia, community, the Rio Hondo Watershed, and Taos valley.
The following concerns demonstrate the reasonably foreseeable, harmful and significant negative impacts this Project will have on my acequia, community, the Rio Hondo Watershed and Taos valley, which must be addressed in an environmental impact statement rather than through a brief and insufficient environmental assessment. The Project’s direct, indirect and cumulative adverse effects will disproportionately impact historically marginalized communities including Pueblos, acequias and land grants, therefore triggering numerous environmental justice requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), its implementing regulations, and several executive orders. CNF has the responsibility of ensuring that all of the Project’s adverse effects are meaningfully and equitably addressed. Most importantly, the EIS must include a No Action Alternative analysis.
Environmental Justice Concerns, Including Cultural and Socioeconomic Impacts, that Must Be Addressed in an EIS:
The EIS must take a hard look at whether Tribes, Pueblos, acequia, land grant and other environmental justice communities have been sufficiently involved in the decision-making process. This includes whether CNF has engaged in tribal consultation prior or during this scoping phase, consultation with impacted acequias and land grants, and with other environmental justice communities. This also includes whether CNF has invited Tribes, Pueblos, acequias and/or land grants with political subdivision of the state status to serve as cooperating agencies in the NEPA process, and whether traditional ecological knowledge is being centered in the NEPA process.
The EIS must also take a hard look at how traditional land-based communities including Tribes, Pueblos, acequias, and land grants currently suffer and have historically suffered, from environmental and health risks or hazards, and from large-scale development projects such as the Proposed Action.
With respect to natural resources such as water, land and wildlife, the EIS must include Tribal, Pueblo, acequia, and land grant dependence on natural resources for their economic base, as well as the cultural values that the Tribe, Pueblo, acequia, or land grant community places on water, land and wildlife at risk by the Proposed Action.
The EIS must also include an analysis of the socioeconomic impacts to environmental justice communities, specifically addressing the Proposed Action’s contribution to low-wage seasonal employment, skyrocketing demand for short-term housing rentals, unsustainable population growth, increased stress to public services, and overall decreased quality of life.
Water Resource Concerns that Must Be Addressed in an EIS:
Generally, the EIS must take a hard look at the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the Proposed Action on all surface water and groundwater resources. This includes analyzing the potential impacts to water quality, groundwater supplies, surface water supplies including drinking water, and aquatic wildlife. Special consideration must be given to project elements that threaten traditional agricultural water supplies for impacted acequias. Baseline data is also needed to meaningfully analyze these impacts.
Specifically, the Proposed Action seeks to install a septic system or sanitary sewer line based on engineering recommendations, with water supplies coming from an onsite well to support the on-mountain guest service facility at the top of Lift 7 and the new Whistle Stop Cafe building. These developments would not only require significant quantities of water, but they would also likely impact water quality in the project area, as well as the greater Rio Hondo Watershed. For example, disturbance of soils along the Lake Fork of the Rio Hondo for installation of the gondola and all its towers would result in impacts to surface waters, therefore requiring diligent analysis and collection of baseline data. The EIS must therefore take a hard look at the Proposed Action’s impacts to water resources, mitigation measures, long-term monitoring of water quality and volume, and a No Action Alternative. Any mitigation measures identified in the EIS must include detailed measures to protect the integrity of the Rio Hondo headwaters through all phases of the project.
Also specifically, the Proposed Action seeks to utilize a 65.2 million gallon water tank (annually storing a diversionary right of 200 acre-feet) and booster station near Lift #2. The EIS must take a hard look at whether this action will result in over-appropriation of the Taos Ski Valley’s 200 acre-feet water right and conditions of approval associated with the Taos Ski Valley’s water rights permit. For example, while Taos Ski Valley, Inc. holds a diversionary right of 200 acre-feet, this water right is severely constrained by the permit condition limiting consumption to only 21.42 acre feet, and a hard cap of only 0.11 acre feet of daily consumptive use between April 11th and October 25th of each year. The EIS must analyze whether the Taos Ski Valley, Inc. has sufficient water rights to implement the proposed project actions, must clearly identify the source and usage of water to be pumped up the mountain, and must analyze effects of removing water from the Rio Hondo Watershed, including the water needed to replenish the tank on a regular basis.
Thank you for considering my comments. This NEPA scoping process is an opportunity for CNF to equitably engage with traditional, land-based communities that have been historically marginalized by CNF project permits and associated water and land management decisions. Inclusion of environmental justice stakeholder concerns will ensure compliance with NEPA and other applicable laws, and will result in a meaningful, equitable analysis of the Proposed Action’s impacts.
Cannabis Bill Stalls Leaving Water Protections Intact
(Santa Fe) – As the session drew to a close, it became clear that SB 100, the Cannabis bill, would not pass. A House committee scheduled to hear the bill on Wednesday never met while the full House met for a marathon floor session to try to get other bills across the finish line.
“We were calling upon the House Judiciary Committee to restore water protections in SB 100 as amended by the Senate.” said Paula Garcia, New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), Executive Director. “Our goal was to maintain the requirement that water rights be verified at the front end of the cannabis licensing process.”
The NMAA was working alongside several other organizations (see attached letter) to remove what was being called the “Pirtle amendments,” which removed the up front water rights check. “We believe that the House Judiciary Committee would have restored the water protections to SB 100,” continued Garcia. “The sponsors had prepared an amendment to remove the Pirtle amendments and we thank them for that.”
Garcia notes that the difficulty some producers face with their water rights has to do with the basic tenets of water law and not the Cannabis Regulation Act. “It can take months to get a State Engineer permit if you don’t already have water rights in place. These are water laws that have been in place for over a century.”
Moving forward, the water rights verification that is in the Cannabis Regulation Act will remain intact. “We believe the CRA has a reasonable up front verification that enables good water management and accountability,” said Harold Trujillo, President of NMAA. “We are interested in working to ensure that the Office of the State Engineer and Regulation and Licensing Department have the resources needed to implement these provisions.”
Guidance on Acequia Meetings during the COVID Pandemic (updated 12/21/21)
Covid case numbers, hospitalizations, and deaths are on the rise nationally. In response to the new Omicron variant, the CDC has strengthened its recommendation saying, “The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19.” Acequia communities are vulnerable because of our elder population and because our health care system and hospitals are strained.
Prevention efforts include the following:
Avoid large, indoor gatherings.
Maintain social distancing.
Wash or sanitize hands frequently.
Many acequias have asked for direction on whether to hold their annual membership meetings. It is important to point out that although acequia statutes state specific dates for scheduling of annual meetings, there is also language that allows for meetings to take place “as soon as practicable thereafter.”
Also, an Attorney General memo from 2020, advised during the state of emergency declared by the Governor, that local governments could postpone meetings or could hold them virtually.
Therefore, NMAA is offering the following guidance. This is not legal advice. If there are any specific questions, you may contact our office or consult with your own attorney.
Avoid indoor meetings.
Membership meetings CAN be postponed until pandemic conditions improve.
If there is urgent business, such as deadlines for funding applications or project management, commissioners can hold special commission meetings provided that the meetings are compliant with the Open Meetings Act.
Membership meetings should be held virtually via online platforms provided that meetings are compliant with the Open Meetings Act until current conditions related to the pandemic improve.
Consider outdoor meetings if weather allows provided that the meetings follow the Open Meetings Act.
The NMAA can provide assistance in hosting online meetings via Zoom including technical assistance with the online meeting and ensuring the meeting is OMA compliant.
If you have general questions, contact Serafina: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like NMAA support in hosting a online/phone meeting, contact Emily: email@example.com
We share our big appreciation with everyone who entered the 2021 Acequia Art & Photo Contest!
Please join us in sharing and celebrating the winning submissions:
First Prize: Jeremy Rodriguez and Jeremiah Martinez of Peñasco
Second Prize: Katelynn Sanchez of Peñasco
Third Prize tie: Feliciana Mitchell of Vadito
Third Prize tie: Simona Santistevan, Canon de Taos, Acequia Madre Sur de Rio Don Fernando in Taos, “Flores y Arbol”
First Prize – Simona Santistevan, Acequia Madre del Sur, Taos
Second Prize -Isabela Gonzales of Peñasco
We celebrate Alyson Archuleta of Taos, who shared a beautiful essay!
“Grandpa Adonais is 90 years old and Grandma Alice is 80 years old. They still plant their vegetable garden just to pass their culture and traditions to their grandchildren. Southside Acequia runs on the side of their property.
They taught me how many seeds to drop into the hole and to step on the ground over the seeds. We planted purple havas, sweet peas, carrots, lettuce, garlic, onion, corn, strawberry popcorn and different pumpkins. Later on the week the Acequia is open and water gets into the garden through rat holes and the ground gets wet. The rows that we planted were out about two weeks later. Many other plants were out and I thought they were weeds.
My grandpa says that grandma thinks she is a curandera, a person who collects herbs and uses them as medicine….When we get home after school grandma or moomsy as we call her blesses us with a bunch of sage tied together and smoke flows over us. It smells funny but good.”
“The artwork is supposed to be of the acequia on my grandfather’s home in La Puebla. I painted it shortly after he passed away in April and thought of the happy times I spent there playing in the Acequia with my grandparents and cousins. It represents the reflections made on his life when he passed. My grandfather Arsenio was an exceptionally kind man and taught us the importance of caring for the environment and animals.”
Second Prize – Emilio Arellano of La Acequia Madre and the Acequia de Abajo in San Cristobal, “A Glimmer of Hope”
“Emilio is a 23 year old on the spectrum. He is a very quiet person but loves the water landscapes all over NM. Emilio is from San Cristobal, NM and spends time outdoors taking photos of the waters near his home. The acequia that runs through here is La Acequia Madre and the Acequia de Abajo. We live in Taos County. We look forward to the spring time to paint new scenes of the beautiful colors and planting our small garden.”
Third Prize – Lee Lee and Thatcher Gray of Los Lovatos Acequia in Taos
“The painting was done by myself, Lee Lee in collaboration with my son, Thatcher Gray…it is a portrait of my father and son cleaning the Los Lovatos ditch in Taos. I painted the figures using watercolor over textures we made together from materials pulled from our garden that flourished from acequia waters (stains from red beets, cabbage, tea and soil).”
First Prize – Helen Perraglio of the Ojo Caliente Ditch in Ojo Caliente “Corn Flowers”
Second Prize – Miguel Santistevan of Acequia Madre del Sur in Taos, “Regando Ajo”
Third Prize – Yasmeen Najmi of Lane Lateral in Albuquerque, “Agua y Tierra Together Forever” (digitally altered image)
The New Mexico Acequia Association is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the SIXTH year cohort of our Farmer-to-Farmer training program, Los Sembradores!
‘Sembradores’ take part in a nine-month, intensive apprenticeship at the Chicoyole farm, and are supported to work their own plots in their different home communities. They gain skills and experience as acequia farmers, including traditional irrigation techniques and ancestral farming methods, as well as modern farming techniques that incorporate season extension, nutrient management, soil health, farm business planning, and regenerative agriculture.
Training includes: farm and business planning, season extension, fertility and soil health, irrigation methods, maintenance of equipment and usage, planting and harvesting techniques, organic pest management, marketing, value added processing, seed saving, remedio making, processing of traditional foods, leadership training, and participation in different NMAA events throughout the season.
Program schedule, location and compensation: Mid-Feb. to Mid-Dec. 2022 with commitment to 3 days a week for the full term of the training. This is a PAID position with bi-weekly work stipends provided.
Our program is run on-site at Chicoyole Farm in Chamisal, NM – apprentices are expected to have reliable transport to and from Chamisal. We are committed to being covid safe, and will implement safety measuresas necessary for community health and safety.
Preference is given to applicants from historic acequia communities who have access to a home garden or farm space to implement what they learn during the program.
by David F. Garcia, NMAA Education & Outreach Coordinator
While New Mexico experienced severe drought in 2021, another challenge faced by many acequias was flooding from extreme rainfall. During Memorial Day weekend in May, numerous acequia communities in the Upper Hondo experienced devastating flooding which prompted Governor Luján Grisham to issue two state emergency declarations for Lincoln and Chaves counties. According to locals, it was perhaps the worst flood disaster to impact this area since the floods brought by Hurricane Dolly in 1968.
The NMAA team was invited by Jackie Powell of the Upper Hondo Water Users Association to accompany site visits by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the New Mexico Department of Homeland security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), and a representative of Senator Ben Ray Luján’s office to assess damage. Powell emphasized the need for acequias to better understand the emergency assistance bureaucracy at both the local and federal levels.
At a meeting, Gregory Suko, Recovery Officer for DHSEM, introduced the FEMA and DHSEM teams, and explained their role in coordinating emergency response. These two teams directly worked with Jackie Powell, who made individual contacts with local acequias officers. In addition, Powell also invited an engineering consultant to help with accessing local costs estimates of the damage.
We headed out from the office in a caravan following Powell. It is important to note the importance of Powell’s position as a liaison between the acequias and the state agencies. Without her vast local knowledge of the watershed, it would have been verydifficult to know where the flood damage is located, “you wouldn’t be able to see the damage from the road and they [agency officials] would not know where to go.”
The group visited the following acequias:
Antonio Sanchez Ditch: David Montez, an acequia parciente and property owner, retold how flood waters from the nearby canyons brought down trees, large stones, and even moved vehicles through his yard. Mayordomo, Richard Ford, led us on a walk to identify acequia infrastructure areas that had sustained the most damage. The acequia, which is enclosed in pipe, was damaged when flood waters broke the pipeline, which interrupted the flow. Quick estimates for repair of the breach were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the need to repair a significant length of the pipeline.
L. Gallegos Ditch: Mayordomo George Mendoza led the group to view heavily silted areas. He stated that sand had filled in their diversion gate, and had damaged their diversion dam preventing the water levels from rising high enough to fill the presa. An important point made here by one of the FEMA representatives was that the federal government could only remediate a site to pre-existing flood conditions.
Upper Chosas Ditch: Mayordomo Richard Montoya led the teams to view damage to the main headgate, which collapsed during the flooding. The diversion was buried under silt and debris and it was difficult to imagine how it looked before the flooding. It was also mentioned that 600 feet of the main acequia pipe would need to be repaired or replaced because it was filled with silt. Estimates of the damage were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Powell continued to lead site visits for an additional two days visiting several other acequias, andexpressed concern regarding the need for acequias not only in her watershed, but regionally, to be prepared for such disasters. With the short-term and long-term effects of drought and wildfires, acequias are susceptible to flooding damage to their infrastructure by any storm system that may come.
Powell outlined some lessons learned to share with fellow acequias including:
Disaster Handbook: One of the most important takeaways from this experience was the importance of a quick response and knowing how to navigate state and federal agencies. FEMA and DHSEM have resources available for rebuilding infrastructure, but there are important constraints and rules to understand. For example, a Governor’s Emergency Declaration will release $750,000 of emergency aid to a county. A federal declaration is needed to make available resources from FEMA which can be significantly higher, depending on the extent of damage. There are also different programs that serve different purposes including the NRCS Emergency Watershed Program and various FSA Disaster Programs, both of which are separate and distinct from FEMA or DHSEM funding. It is vital that acequias and their parciantes understand the programs and are informed of their deadlines. More information on these programs are provided at the end of the article.
Local Liaisons: Jackie Powell illustrated the importance of having local acequia leaders who can communicate with FEMA and DHSEM. Counties and towns have emergency managers to coordinate with agencies, and acequias need a similar person who can be a liaison and assist with doing damage assessments. It is also helpful for acequias to have a liaison who can coordinate with their local county emergency manager to effectively respond to disasters.
Local Mapping and Documentation: Because emergency funding can be used only to restore the pre-existing condition of infrastructure, it is vital that acequias have good documentation of their infrastructure including GPS points, photos, and descriptions. Absent this documentation, it is difficult for agency officials to estimate the cost of replacement of acequia infrastructure. In some cases, acequia irrigation works were completely washed out or covered with silt and their original condition was difficult to visualize.
The following are some useful resources for local communities in the event of a disaster:
The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM). Local emergency managers should immediately contact DHSEM when an emergency or disaster exceeds county resources. The Response and Recovery Team is responsible for overseeing and coordinating state-level all-hazards emergency response and recovery preparedness, response, recovery and homeland security activities within NM. Their 24 hour hotline is 505-476-9600. A Governor’s emergency declaration canmake available $750,000 per county for disaster response resources.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)– The US President can make an emergency declaration or can declare a major disaster within 30 days of the occurrence if it is determined the impact of the damage is of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond. An emergency or a major disaster declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent works. This is in addition to the state funds made available through a Governor’s declaration.
The NRCS Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program – isa federal emergency recovery program that helps local communities recover after a natural disaster strikes. It offers technical and financial assistance to help local communities relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by floods, fires, windstorms and other natural disasters that impair a watershed. State or federal declarations are not necessary. EWP is a cost share program – 75% of the cost is covered by NRCS and the 25% is the local share. In the summer flooding in the Upper Hondo, Lincoln County and the local SWCD covered the 25% local cost share. This program was used to remove debris from the river where additional flooding placed property or life at risk. Some of this work was done within days of the flood.
NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Emergency – While not designed to be an emergency response program, EQIP can play a vital role in assisting producers recover from natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and drought. It provides financial assistance to repair and prevent the excessive soil erosion caused or impacted by natural disasters. These practices include activities like stream bank restoration, grassed waterways and buffers. NRCS-funded conservation practices protect your land from erosion, support disaster recovery and repair, and can help mitigate loss from future natural disasters. Socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers, Tribes, veterans and young/beginning farmers are eligible for an increased payment rate and may receive advance payment of up to 50% to purchase materials and services needed to implement conservation practices included in their EQIP contract.
The FSA Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) – helps farmers and ranchers to repair damage to farmlands caused by natural disasters and to help put in place methods for water conservation during severe drought. The funding for ECP is determined by Congress. Up to 75% of the cost to implement emergency conservation practices can be provided, however the final amount is determined by the committee reviewing the application. Qualified limited resource/ socially disadvantaged, and beginning farmers/ranchers may earn up to 90% cost-share. The FSA County Committee is able to approve applications up to $125,000 – while $125,001 to $250,000 requires state committee approval. Amounts over $250,000 require the approval of the national FSA office. Federal or state emergency declarations are not always required. In the case of the Upper Hondo flooding, some landowners were planning to submit requests for funding assistance to replace fencing that had been destroyed by floodwaters.
Deadline for Comments on First Phase of 50-year Water Plan
The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) launched its new 50 Year Water Plan website and hosted several webinars in August and early September to discuss the many impacts climate change is having on our state. The new website provides webinar recordings, opportunities for public participation, key data, and recommendations. NMAA is one of many stakeholders in this planning effort. The goal of the Plan is to prepare for New Mexico’s water future, centering water planning around three pillars: stewardship, equity, and sustainability. The Plan’s scientific report, known as the “Leap Ahead Analysis”, was released on September 15th and the public may submit comments through October 15th. NMAA encourages the acequia community to engage in this planning effort and learn more about how climate change is impacting our most precious resource. To view past webinars, read the report, or to submit a comment, visit the ISC planning website: https://www.ose.state.nm.us/Planning/50YWP/
“El Agua Es Vida” Acequia Tour Highlights Drought Impacts on Acequias
On August 30th, Representative Teresa Leger Fernandez spent a day listening to local acequia leaders about the impacts of drought and climate change on water supplies, and about infrastructure needs such as climate-resilient infrastructure and water storage. The full day was named the “Agua es Vida” tour and included site visits to acequias with officials from the Rio Chama Acequia Association (RCAA), as well as to Don Bustos’ farm in Santa Cruz. Accompanied by Senator Leo Jaramillo, Rep. Leger Fernandez listened to presentations near Abiquiu including an explanation by Darel Madrid, President of RCAA, about plans to acquire water and storage to make it through the irrigation season. RCAA leaders also showed examples of damaged infrastructure from the pulse releases from reservoirs to deliver water downstream to Albuquerque. The second leg of the tour was a visit to Santa Cruz Farm and Greenhouses where Don Bustos and officers from the Rio Quemado, Rio en Medio, Rio Frijoles, Rio Santa Cruz Acequia Association explained the importance of water sharing and the need to maintain their reservoir for water storage. Don led a tour of his farm which included demonstrations of traditional and modern irrigation techniques as well as greenhouses which allow for year-round production of fresh produce. Young farmers, including Joseluis Ortiz and Donne Gonzales, spoke of the importance of training new farmers and the important role that Don has played in being a teacher for a new generation of acequia farmers in northern New Mexico. Along the way, David Garcia, NMAA Education and Outreach Coordinator, made the visits festive with music honoring our acequia traditions.
USDA Responds to Rancher Concerns about NAP
On March 25, 2021, Senator Ben Ray Lujan announced that USDA Secretary Vilsack has given direction to the New Mexico FSA office to clarify that acequia producers in certain counties would be eligible for the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (“NAP”) program to obtain coverage related to drought losses for irrigated forage. In 2020, then FSA Executive Director, Michael White, issued a memo interpreting FSA rules such that drought was not an eligible cause of loss on irrigated forage. However, after several ranchers raised concerns, NMAA pointed out in a letter to FSA that the memo was not consistent with the NAP Handbook, which clearly states that drought can be an eligible cause of loss if there is an adequate supply of water at the beginning of the season and if the crop is a perennial.
Based on the dispute, several ranchers asked Senator Lujan to advocate toSecretary Vilsack for intervention. Vilsack’s decision earlier in 2021 is a temporary policy to allow acequia irrigators growing forage to sign up for NAP. A long-term solution to NAP eligibility has not yet been reached, as Vilsack’s decision only applied to the 2021 season. While the new FSA director has yet to be announced, there may be some potential that new leadership can work collaboratively to address the needs of ranchers who are affected by drought.
Update on Comexico/Tererro Mine
In 2019, mining corporation Comexico submitted an application to the Mining and Minerals Division (MMD) for a exploratory mining permit and also submitted an application to the US Forest Services for a permit to drill in an area near the old Tererro mine in the Upper Pecos watershed, an area that has substantial contamination from past mining operations. The timeline on these permits is uncertain and NMAA does not have any specific updates on dates of hearings or public comment. When those become available, NMAA, along with other advocates, will disseminate action alerts. In the meantime, NMAA continues to participate in the Stop Tererro Mine Coalition along with several community-based organizations and conservation groups.
San Miguel County Approves Mining Ordinance
NMAA recently supported the San Miguel County Mineral Resource Exploration, Extracting and Processing Ordinance (“County Mining Ordinance”), adopted on September 15th. The County Mining Ordinance authorizes the county to exercise its regulatory authority overenvironmental impacts from the mining industry within county boundaries. This ordinance is similar to the Santa Fe County mining ordinance adopted in 2019 and applies to all future mining activities. The ordinance ensures that future mining operations comply with regulatory requirements, enables the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners to meaningfully exercise its regulatory authority, and holds mining operators accountable for impacts to cultural and natural resources. The Pecos River Watershed provides critical water resources to numerous downstream acequias, therefore clean water is essential for the health and wellbeing of these acequia communities. NMAA commends the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners for taking this necessary and prudent action to help protect the health, safety and welfare of county residents.
State Decennial Redistricting Underway
New Mexico is currently in the process of “redistricting”, which is the redrawing of the geographical boundaries that correspond to certain elected offices to account for changes in population. For example, all US House Representatives represent specific geographical areas of a state. This is the same for state legislators and many local elected officials. As populations change across districts, they must be redrawn to provide for an equal population across all districts (one person, one vote).Our legislature passed the Redistricting Act during the recentlegislative session, which created the Citizen Redistricting Committee, an independent, non-partisan body tasked to develop and propose updated district maps for New Mexico’s Congressional delegation, the New Mexico Senate, the New Mexico House of Representatives, and the Public Education Commission.
The mission of this committee is to propose district lines that are drawn fairly through a transparent, open, and participatory process and “to develop district maps that allow New Mexican voters to choose their elected representatives, not the other way around.” NMAA submitted its proposed redistricting maps on September 1st, along with written comments. Of primary importance to NMAA is the preservation of acequia communities of interest, preservation of existing district cores, as well as the prevention of acequia voting strength/representation dilution. The committee released its draft redistricting maps on September 15th for another round of public comment, and NMAA will submit supplemental comments.
Pecos Locals and Jemez Pueblo Urge Protection of Pecos Watershed
At a legislative committee hearing in Taos, Ralph Vigil, Chairman of the NM Acequia Commission and owner of Molino de la Isla Farm and Kurt Mora, second Lieutenant Governor of Jemez Pueblo gave a presentation to the Water and Natural Resources Committee about the significance of the Upper Pecos watershed to the health and well being of downstream communities. They also pointed out that the Pecos area contains sacred sites and is the ancestral homeland of families from Jemez Pueblo with ancestors who were displaced from Pecos Pueblo centuries ago. They noted that the watershed is threatened by potential mining operations which would be catastrophic for the communities who rely on clean water for a vital recreational and agricultural economy in the communities along the Pecos River. They urged protection of the Pecos River and noted several ongoing efforts to defend the area by various organizations working on water quality and land protection.