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CALL TO ACTION: Support HB 121 in the House of Representatives

HB 121, as passed by the House Judiciary Committee (HJC), protects due process in water lease applications and also creates a new process for “expedited leases.” The bill creates a new tool for the State Engineer for certain leases to be fast-tracked while also ensuring the State Engineer may approve a lease application only after requirements for public notice, opportunity for protest, and mandatory public hearings are met. Water leases under a certain cap and timeframe are eligible for the expedited lease process.

The bill addresses the need for a lawful, expedited lease process. In recent years, the State Engineer was granting lease applications that skipped due process requirements through “preliminary approval.” This practice has been deemed unlawful by a District Court ruling and a recent Attorney General Opinion. The process outlined in HB 121 (as amended by HJC) is the result of a compromise with the State Engineer.

It is vital to to have transparency in any applications that could affect existing and senior water rights, as well as our rivers and aquifers. HB 121 ensures that communities potentially impacted by water leases are provided with public notice and due process protections.

HB 121 HJC CS Water Lease Due Process Protections Handout FINAL1

 

CALL TO ACTION – Support Acequia Disaster and Infrastructure Funding

Please join us in supporting two bills being heard in the Senate Conservation Committee which would increase funding for acequia disaster and infrastructure funding and more agency staff to complete acequia infrastructure projects statewide! 

SB 176 (Campos, Jaramillo, Stefanics) Acequia Fund for Disaster Recovery. This bill amends the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund (ACDIF) Act to include “disaster recovery” to the purpose of the fund and increases the annual appropriation to the ACDIF from $2.5 million to $5.0 million. 

SB 239 (Campos, Sanchez) Stream Commission Acequia Bureau. This bill creates at Acequia Bureau at the Interstate Stream Commission. The purpose is to ensure that the acequia program, which administers Capital Outlay and the ACDIF, has dedicated staffing. This will improve the timely completion of acequia infrastructure projects. 

* SB 176 and SB 239 promote rural equity by ensuring access to infrastructure funding and disaster recovery in New Mexico’s underserved rural communities. 

​* Improved funding and agency capacity will improve outcomes and timely completion of acequia infrastructure and disaster recovery projects. 

* SB 176 and SB 239 address the increased need for acequia infrastructure funding arising from disasters related to fires and floods in New Mexico. ​ 

For more talking points, click on the links below:

SB 176 Acequia Fund for Disaster Response

SB 239 Stream Commission Acequia Bureau

To follow up, here are the phone numbers for each of the committee members:

Chair Liz Stefanics 505-986-4377
Vice Chair Antoinette Sedillo Lopez 505-986-4389
Senator David Gallegos 505-986-4278
Senator Joseph Cervantes 505-986-4861
Senator Carrie Hamblen 505-986-4266
Senator Steven Neville 505-986-4701
Senator Harold Pope 505-986-4365
Senator Gregg Schmedes 505-986-4395
Senator William Soules 505-986-4834

 

Please attend in person or via Zoom. The Senate Conservation Committee will meet Thursday, February 9, 2023 at 9am in Room 311. You can also join via Zoom at the link below:

For public participation click on the link to join the ZOOM WEBINAR: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/7739881331 or via telephone US: +1 253 215 8782 Webinar ID: 773 988 1331

Congreso de las Acequias: Tierra Querida Declaration

Acequias gathered from across the state in Las Vegas, New Mexico for the annual Congreso de las Acequias on December 9th and 10th. The event featured informative workshops, roundtables, and performances. To view the final program click here: Congreso Final Program

Each year, the Congreso de las Acequias, which is also the governing body of the New Mexico Acequia Association, adopts resolutions and declarations that honor the historical moment, guide the strategic direction, and define policy positions.

Tierra Querida, Beloved Land Declaration Declaration.2022.Congreso.Tierra.Querida.Final

In the year 2022, after numerous years of megadrought, our communities experienced the worst year on record for wildfires including the two largest wildfires in New Mexico history, the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire and the Black Fire. Burned homes, forests, and ranches have devastated the people of the burn scars.

The trees, plants, roots, soils, and cloud patterns that were our source of water and our source of life will never be the same again. Places of our ancestors for harvesting remedios, fishing, hunting, and harvesting firewood, latillas, vigas and other building materials live only in our memories. Acequias, once flowing with clean, crystalline snowmelt from our beloved mountains are clogged with ash and soils that eroded from the burned hillslopes.

Still, the land endures. Burned, scarred, wounded, and eroded, our beloved land is still in our care.

The Congreso de las Acequias, as representatives from acequias throughout New Mexico, express our deep sadness at the loss of watersheds, forests, and the headwaters in the burn scars from the 2022 fires.

We declare our resolve to heal our Tierra Querida, Beloved Land and we envision some of the work that lies ahead for recovering communities to heal, rebuild, and adapt for ongoing hardships and climate extremes. Our work is also important for communities who have not yet faced the catastrophe of megafires and flooding, but who are vulnerable.

  1. Rebuild our acequias and community ditches ravaged by flooding by leveraging government programs but also mobilizing communities and volunteers for communal work.
  2. Heal our watersheds with massive investments for erosion control, river restoration, and reforestation. Watersheds not yet burned need restoration through thinning and erosion control.
  3. Learn from the 2022 disasters to better prepare other communities for future disasters
  4. Establish emergency seed banks that are protected from fires and floods.
  5. Adapt to water scarcity by strengthening our customs and practices of water sharing.
  6. Protect our land and water, keeping water rights tied to farmland and preventing depletion of our aquifers.
  7. Dedicate more resources toward adaptive agricultural practices to support local food production with drought resilient crops and livestock.

We resolve to build a stronger acequia movement that honors the contributions of the many volunteers who work tirelessly to keep water flowing to our lands, that supports leaders in our communities to be caretakers of the land and water, and that lifts up new generations of leaders to be defenders of our water, land, and way of life.

APPROVED BY THE CONGRESO DE LAS ACEQUIAS THIS DAY, THE 10th OF DECEMBER, 2022.

 

Resources for Post-Fire, Pre-Flood Mitigation – Emergency Watershed Program

Landowners who were affected by the recent wildfires can apply for the NRCS Emergency Watershed Program (EWP). The program will cover 90% of the cost of post-fire mitigation measures that can protect life and property. Examples of these measures include erosion control through contour felling, debris removal, etc. For more examples, view the video recording from a recent meeting below.
Click here for the recording of a recent meeting by the Tierra y Montes SWCD: Meeting Recording
Individual landowners or acequias can apply. The links below are for each of the two SWCDs who are sponsoring the program at the local level:

Acequias are Mobilizing to Respond to Wildfires

Across the state, thousands of families have been impacted by devastating wildfires. We are facing immediate concerns over safety, survival and displacement, and also long term worries about our watersheds, forests, fields, and homes.
“We will forever measure our lives as ‘before the fire’ and ‘after the fire,” New Mexico Acequia Association Executive Director Paula Garcia has written about her first-hand experience with the catastrophic wildfires impacting land-based communities in northern New Mexico. She describes the immeasurable impacts to a beloved landscape and a way of life in the mountain communities of Mora and San Miguel counties. (Click here for PDF: Our homeland is burning — now what_ santafenewmexican.com)
Acequia leaders in the affected communities are tirelessly working to respond to the impacts of fire on watersheds and the threat of flooding by engaging with the USFS, NRCS, counties, and SWCDs to include acequias in the mapping and planning process to address fire and flood impacts. In the coming weeks and months, NMAA will report regularly on our work to recover and heal our beloved lands and our families from the trauma of wildfire.
New Mexico Acequia Association and partners will work to support families and communities in post-wildfire recovery. Mindful that recovery and healing from a disaster on a large scale will take years, this project seeks to make long-term commitments to families and communities to rebuild their generational farms and ranches as well as to reimagine their beloved places to be equitable and resilient. Our work will be grounded in the values embodied in querencia, love of place and community, and we will dedicate ourselves to healing and building communities where land-based families can thrive for generations to come.
While the NMAA makes progress on building our vision, programs, and projects for recovery, we are sharing the following information resources that are helpful in addressing wildfire impacts:
After Wildfire New Mexico Guide for Communities: https://www.afterwildfirenm.org/ 
This guide was created to help communities organize and respond to wildfire and subsequent flooding. The guide contains safety information, flood information, state and federal agency resources and contacts for assistance, ways to mobilize your community, and financial and funding tips for communities and families. It is intended to provide useful guidance through a difficult time, and to start you and your community on the road to recovery. If you are reading this before a wildfire occurs, use it to help you plan ahead.
FEMA Assistance
Those affected by the wildfires, either by loss or damage to property or by displacement/evacuation, can apply to FEMA for assistance. To apply for FEMA assistance: call the Helpline 800-621-3362 or visit disasterassistance.gov
FEMA Flood Insurance
Those who are potentially impacted by post-fire flooding can apply for flood insurance, which would go into effect after 30 days of purchasing an insurance policy (Governor Lujan Grisham has asked for a waiver of the 30 day period because the federal government is responsible for the start of the wildfire through a prescribed burn). For more information about how to buy insurance, go to the FEMA flood insurance page.
Additional resources are listed on these handouts:

NMAA is Hiring!

The NMAA is hiring a Community Organizing and Communications Coordinator to conduct outreach, base building, training, education, and leadership development with the statewide acequia community, which includes support local and statewide campaigns to protect water from commodification and contamination. This position will also be responsible for coordinating overall communications with members, the media, and the general public. 
 
The NMAA is also hiring an Executive Assistant to provide administrative and programmatic support to the NMAA team. This position will play a vital role in the organization by assisting with scheduling, tracking inquiries and requests for assistance, implementing a membership program, assisting with community outreach activities, and assisting with office management. 
 
For both positions, experience in a non-profit, community-based work setting is required. The ideal candidate must be friendly, outgoing, and willing to take on complex tasks. Both positions require excellent communication and writing skills, experience relevant to the position, extensive in person work, the ability to travel statewide, and the ability to work collaboratively with a diverse team and community. Both require periods of rigorous activity and irregular work hours during key issue campaigns and the state legislative session and both positions will work directly with the Executive Director.
 
NMAA is an equal opportunity employer dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more information, see the full job descriptions in the links above. To apply, send a cover letter and resume to Juliet Garcia at juliet@lasacequias.org. 

Cannabis Bill Stalls Leaving Water Protections Intact

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact: Paula Garcia

lamorena@lasacequias.org

505-231-7752

 

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. It is also important to remember there is no cap on the number of licenses to be issued, so there is still time for entry into this emerging market.” 

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.”

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CALL TO ACTION: RESTORE WATER PROTECTIONS IN CANNABIS BILL SB 100

This is a letter from a broad coalition to the NM House of Representatives. For a PDF of the letter click here:  Cannabis coalition Letter to House 2.15.22

 

CALL TO ACTION: RESTORE WATER PROTECTIONS IN CANNABIS BILL SB 100

Dear House Members,

We, the undersigned, are calling upon the House of Representatives to restore water protections to the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA). SB 100 (Lopez-Romero) was originally intended to increase plant counts and other “technical” changes. However, a hostile amendment by Senator Pirtle in the Senate Judiciary Committee stripped essential water protections requiring that an applicant have valid water rights as a condition of being granted a license to grow cannabis. We are asking the House to remove the Pirtle amendment and restore existing water protection requirements of the CRA.

We know that these protections are necessary because other states with legal cannabis (California, Oregon, Colorado, etc.) are struggling with illegal water uses. In New Mexico, many new producers mistakenly believe they can:

1) use domestic wells for commercial production,

2) pump surface water from acequias or rivers without a valid water right,

3) use residential water from mutual domestics for commercial production.

OSE Director of Water Resources Allocation Program has recently stated that the CRA’s water validation requirement is working to prevent water theft by cannabis producers and results in less agency resources being expended in the long term:         

  • 85-90% of applicants “have presented invalid water rights, need to reconfigure the water rights or plan to use a domestic well, which is not allowed for agriculture,” Romero advised.
  • OSE also advised that removal of the existing water protection requirement is “going to make it that much more difficult on the agency when we’re already resource-strapped.”

*Source: https://nmpoliticalreport.com/2022/02/15/senate-passes-cannabis-law-changes-adds-new-water-rights-language/

Moreover, the water protection requirements ensure water equity. Tribal and Senior water rights holders in NM are from historically underserved and marginalized communities which will now be put at greater risk of unlawful uses of surface and groundwater impairing their senior water rights. This is an issue of water equity. Requiring validity checks for water actually ensures water equity for rural and tribal communities such as acequias and water providers such as mutual domestics.

Finally, the Legislature has required OSE water rights validation and use oversight for other industries: NM Subdivision Act, specifically Sections 47-6-11, 47-6-11.2, and 47-6-11.4 NMSA 1978; Section 72-12-5 NMSA 1978 pertaining to use of non potable deep aquifers in multiple sectors; and the Mine Dewatering Act, Section 2-12A-5 NMSA 1978.

New Mexico is now in an era of long term aridification, where we need more careful stewardship of our limited water resources and cultural integrity. By removing the water protections, rural entities, such as mutual domestics and acequias, who are entrusted with managing water at the local level, will bear the burden of enforcement. This would put our precious water resources at risk. We are urging you to remove the Pirtle amendment, restore existing water protection requirements, and allow time for a meaningful analysis during the legislative interim.

NM Cannabis Justice Project                                                 Shiprock Traditional Farmers Cooperative

Pueblo Action Alliance                                                            El Chante

National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Ass.-NM   Southwest Organizing Project

National Young Farmers                                                         American Friends Service Committee

New Mexico Acequia Association                                        Tewa Women United

Western Landowners Alliance                                               Yucca

Trout Unlimited                                                                        Los Jardines

Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network                                      Earth Care

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union                                           Black Farmers and Ranchers NM

N.M. Association of Conservation Districts                        Bueno Para Todos Farm

NM League of United Latin American Citizens

CALL TO ACTION: Contact Senators to Oppose Removal of Water Protections in Cannabis Bill

Please contact the Senate NOW to remove the Senate Judiciary Committee amendment to SB 100 Cannabis Regulation!! There will like be a vote on the Senate Floor MONDAY.  When the original Cannabis Regulation Act was passed in 2021, NMAA advocated for water protections as a condition of obtaining a cannabis producer license. The protections are to prevent illegal uses of water.  IT IS URGENT that we contact the full Senate to remove the SJC amendment, which was made in the Senate Judiciary Committee WITHOUT ANY TRANSPARENCY or opportunity for PUBLIC COMMENT.

Cut and Paste Subject: Keep Water Protections in Cannabis Regulation Act
 
Cut and paste to all the Senators:

greg.baca@nmlegis.gov, craig.brandt@nmlegis.gov, bill.burt@nmlegis.gov, “Campos, Pete” <pete.campos@nmlegis.gov>, “Candelaria, Jacob” <jacob.candelaria@nmlegis.gov>, joseph.cervantes@nmlegis.gov, crystal.diamond@nmlegis.gov, katy.duhigg@nmlegis.gov, “David Gallegos (david.rsi@hotmail.com)” <david.rsi@hotmail.com>, roberto.gonzales@nmlegis.gov, ron.griggs@nmlegis.gov, carrie.hamblen@nmlegis.gov, siah.hemphill@nmlegis.gov, martin.hickey@nmlegis.gov, stuart.ingle@nmlegis.gov, daniel.ivey-soto@nmlegis.gov, “Jaramillo, Leo” <leo.jaramillo@nmlegis.gov>, gay.kernan@nmlegis.gov, linda.lopez@nmlegis.gov, brenda.mckenna@nmlegis.gov, mark.moores@nmlegis.gov, george.munoz@nmlegis.gov, steven.neville@nmlegis.gov, oneillsd13@billoneillfornm.com, “Ortiz y Pino, Jerry” <jortizyp@msn.com>, michael.padilla@nmlegis.gov, shannon.pinto@nmlegis.gov, cliff.pirtle@nmlegis.gov, harold.popejr@nmlegis.gov, nancy.rodriguez@nmlegis.gov, Joshua Sanchez <jas4nm@gmail.com>, gregg.schmedes@nmlegis.gov, a.sedillolopez@nmlegis.gov, bill@williamsharer.com, “Shendo, Benny” <benny.shendo@nmlegis.gov>, bill.soules@nmlegis.gov, Liz Stefanics <lstefanics@msn.com>, jeff.steinborn@nmlegis.gov, bill.tallman@nmlegis.gov, Peter Wirth <peter.wirth@nmlegis.gov>, pat.woods@nmlegis.gov, mimi.stewart@nmlegis.gov, leojaramillo76@gmail.com, lopez4148@msn.com, asedillolopez@gmail.com

Cut and Paste Sample message:
Dear Senators,
We stand in firm opposition to the amendment made to SB 100 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The amendment was made with no public notice and no opportunity for public comment. It is an amendment that removes critical water protections from the Cannabis Regulation Act, which was passed in 2021. The purpose of the water protections was to ensure that license applicants have valid water rights and are in compliance with local water provider rules. We ask that the Senate remove this amendment in a SENATE FLOOR AMENDMENT and that the issue of water rights be addressed during the legislative interim.
We know that these protections are necessary because other states with legal cannabis (California, Oregon, Colorado, etc.) are struggling with illegal water uses. In New Mexico, many new producers mistakenly believe they can:
1) use domestic wells for commercial production,
2) pump surface water from acequias or rivers without a valid water right,
3) use residential water from mutual domestics for commercial production.
New Mexico is in a historic drought when we need more careful stewardship of our limited water resources. By removing the water protections, the State Legislature will be unleashing an industry in rural New Mexico where local institutions such as mutual domestics, acequias, and small towns need guardrails at the state level to avoid exploitation of limited water resources, especially finite groundwater. We are urging you to remove this amendment and allow time for more analysis during the legislative interim.
(your name and acequia/water institution/organization)

Acequias Cry Foul on Cannabis Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Contact: Paula Garcia 

505-231-7752

paula@lasacequias.org

 

Acequias Cry Foul on Cannabis Legislation

(Santa Fe, NM). Acequias are denouncing a last-minute gutting of water protections in the Cannabis Regulation Act. On Sunday morning, a Senate committee met to consider a bill dealing with cannabis plant count limits. Without notice or opportunity for public comment, the committee adopted an amendment eliminating existing requirements aimed at preventing illegal uses of water.

“We worked very hard with the legislature in 2021 to enact safeguards for water resources from the negative impacts of the cannabis industry,” said Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association. “In a few minutes, with no opportunity for public comment, all that hard work was erased.” 

Senator Pirtle, a Roswell Republican, introduced an amendment to SB 100 to remove language in the Cannabis Regulation Act requiring cannabis producers have valid water rights. The only dissenting vote was Senator Linda Lopez, the bill sponsor who called the amendment “not friendly.” Three of the committee members who are attorneys practicing cannabis law cited their own experience and argued that the water rights requirements were burdensome.

“We are calling upon the full Senate to remove the amendment that gutted the water protections,” Garcia remarked. “If the Legislature was planning to remove the water protections, stakeholders including the acequias should have been consulted.” 

Harold Trujillo, President of the NMAA and a member of the Cannabis Advisory Committee, countered remarks by the committee that the removal of water protections would benefit smaller producers. “We are concerned that the cause of equity is being misrepresented,” said Trujillo. “The root cause of inequity is the lack of capital for micro-producers. Requiring validity checks for water actually ensures water equity for rural communities such as mutual domestics and acequias.”

In a public meeting in November 2021, the OSE reported that they had received approximately twenty requests for water rights validation and that the majority did not meet validity checks. “We have learned from other states as well as specific examples of medical producers in New Mexico that the cannabis industry is unique in its apparent problem of illegal water use,” remarked Garcia. “As one of the most water-scarce states in the nation, New Mexico needs extra safeguards for our precious water.”

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