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NMAA 2022 Legislative Tracker

The New Mexico Acequia Association will be engaged in the upcoming 2022 legislative session. This year, the legislature will convene for a 30-day session, which is focused on passing budget legislation as well as key priorities of the Governor.
NMAA is working on a list of budget priorities as follows:

• $400,000 increase in recurring funding for the Acequia and Community Ditch Fund (ACDF) the purpose of which is to ensure equitable engagement in the water right adjudication process

• $4.5 million to the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) for a 3 year project to conduct a statewide acequia infrastructure assessment including analysis of climate resilient designs for acequia irrigation systems.

• $2.5 million to the ISC for shovel-ready projects and $5 million to the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund (ACDIF) to plan, design, and construct acequia projects over a 3 year timeframe.

• Create an Acequia Bureau at the ISC and add 2.0 FTE for implementation of the ACDIF.

• Create a Policy Analyst Position, 1.0 FTE to the New Mexico Acequia Commission.
Additionally, NMAA will be monitoring all legislation with a focus on water, agriculture, conservation, and infrastructure. We update our 2022 Acequia Legislative Tracker daily during the 30 day session.

Click here to view the tracker

Land Grants and Acequias – Statement on House Committee Structure

Statement from the NM Acequia Association:

“Land grants and acequias have sustained our communities for centuries. We remain devoted to the well-being of our families by sustaining our culture and protecting land and water for future generations. We are encouraged that House Leadership is listening to our needs and concerns and that there is a commitment to work with us now and in the future. We are prepared to advocate for investments in our communities and policies consistent with our core values. We have much work ahead and look forward to having a stronger voice in the updated committee structure.” – Paula Garcia, Executive Director

Full text of the press release from Speaker Brian Egolf:

House Democrats and Community Leaders Give Voice to Land Grants and Acequias

Santa Fe, NM. – After meeting with land grant and acequia community leaders today, House Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) announced important changes to House standing committees to elevate the voices and concerns of these communities. The new Rural Development, Land Grants, and Cultural Affairs Committee will be established in the coming session, and will be chaired by Representative Susan Herrera (D-Embudo).

Two other standing committees will also be newly titled: the Agriculture, Acequias, and Water Resources Committee and the Government, Elections, and Indian Affairs Committee. Together, these committees will respond effectively to the needs of land grant and acequia communities within the Legislature.

Majority Leader Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque), Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos (D-Las Cruces), and Majority Caucus Chair D. Wonda Johnson (D-Church Rock) joined with colleagues in the House today to meet with land grant and acequia community leaders and receive input on policies to strengthen and protect these institutions into the future.

Statement of Speaker Brian Egolf:

“Land grants, acequias, and their contributions to our state have been critically important to me since the first day I was elected to the Legislature. I am grateful for the advice and input that we received today from land grant and acequia leaders. I am glad that we have charted a path forward which will result in a new committee structure that will both elevate land grant and acequia issues and bring positive change for every land grant heir and acequia parciante.”

New Mexico Land Grant-Merced Consejo:
“The New Mexico Land Grant-Merced Consejo and land grant leaders throughout the state are pleased that the Majority Leadership in the House of Representatives has committed to working with and consulting our communities on issues relating to land and water, which we expect will result in better overall policies for our State. That land grants and acequias are included in standing committees of the legislature is an important first step to ensure that the needs of our communities are addressed.”

Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association:
“Land grants and acequias have sustained our communities for centuries. We remain devoted to the well-being of our families by sustaining our culture and protecting land and water for future generations. We are encouraged that House Leadership is listening to our needs and concerns and that there is a commitment to work with us now and in the future. We are prepared to advocate for investments in our communities and policies consistent with our core values. We have much work ahead and look forward to having a stronger voice in the updated committee structure.”

Ralph Vigil, Chair of the New Mexico Acequia Commission:

“Today we had a good meeting with House Leadership regarding the future of the land grants, acequias, and our traditional communities. This is hopefully the beginning of building long term relationships with legislative leaders to address the long standing issues for our traditional communities and the citizens of New Mexico. We look forward to working closely with our legislative allies to move our communities forward.”

Steve Polaco, President of Merced de Los Pueblos de Tierra Amarilla:

“I am pleased that Representative Susan Herrera has been appointed to Chair the new Rural Development, Land Grants, and Cultural Affairs Committee. She has been working with our land grant since she was elected. Everything we have asked for, she has always sent us in the right direction and I think she will lead us in a way that will help us accomplish everything that we want to achieve. She has been very responsive in the past and I have confidence that she will continue to do that.”

House Majority Leader Javier Martínez:

“These treasured multigenerational entities are foundational to the identity and livelihoods of many New Mexicans. The land grant and acequia communities have to know they can count on elected leaders to have their backs and ensure they have a strong voice within state government.”

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Corazon y Querencia Declaration

Corazón y Querencia: Acequias Respond to the Water and Climate Crisis

Adopted at the 2021 Congreso de las Acequias, December 4, 2021

Our theme for 2021, Corazón y Querencia, is rooted in love, which is the most potent force for survival and resilience for our families and communities in the years to come. Drought, climate change, and the global pandemic have reminded us of our interconnectedness both locally and globally. We believe in the power of building stronger communities through cooperation, sharing, and mutual understanding.

Acequias have been caretakers of water for centuries in New Mexico. For nearly four decades, acequias have mobilized to protect water from commodification through protests of water transfers and by strengthening acequia governance. Our communities are confronting an urgent existential crisis that must be addressed on multiple levels:

  • the water crisis has been underway for decades prompted in part by climate change and drought but also by water policy decisions. For more than two generations, acequias have sounded the alarm about an impending water crisis resulting from overappropriation of water, unsustainable and inequitable management of our water resources based on water markets, water transfers out of agriculture to other uses, and irreversible depletion of finite groundwater.
  • the climate crisis has increased the urgency to be exemplary caretakers of our watersheds, rivers, acequias, and farmland, to reaffirm customs and traditions of water sharing, i.e. the repartimiento, as well as to re-localize our food systems with native and landrace seeds, healthy soils, resilient and dynamic herds of livestock, and regenerative agricultural practices.
  • the economic crisis, driven by unprecedented wealth inequality, manifests in our communities as gentrification, development patterns that cannot be sustained in an arid environment, underinvestment in rural community development and infrastructure, and food and agriculture policy that undermines small-scale farmers. The most immediate impact for acequias is the commodification of water driving the movement of water out of agriculture to extractive industries, water speculation, land development speculation, as well as luxury resorts and hunting lodges for the extremely wealthy.

Core Values

Guided by our core values, acequia parciantes, families, and neighbors will strive to work together to not only survive multiple levels of crisis but to strengthen our communities. We resolve to build and sustain relationships based on respeto (respect) in which we treat each other with dignity. As acequias, water sharing customs and traditions, known as the repartimiento, are central to our culture and our identity. Likewise, mutualismo, characterized by relationships of mutual aid, democratic decisions, and collective management of resources, is a core value deeply rooted in acequia history and culture.  The core value of solidarity compels us to work with multiple movements for social, economic, and environmental justice.

Acequias and the Way Forward: Actions for 2022

Water Sharing Agreements: The repartimiento tradition, as we define it for our present time, is the practice of sharing water within acequias and between acequias. As long-term megadrought and climate change intensify, communities have to prepare for less snowpack, less runoff, and less predictable precipitation. In 2022, the NMAA invites acequias to engage in a local dialogue to affirm values and customs of water sharing and to update and reinvent customary practices during this era of climate change when adaptations are necessary.

Water as a Community Resource vs. Commodification: Acequias have been on the front line of challenging the commodification of water for over a century in New Mexico. In 2022, NMAA will continue to support acequias in filing protests of water transfers, to build capacity to exert decisions over proposed water transfers out of acequias, and to organize a base in communities to defend water as a community resource.

Infrastructure and Disaster Preparedness: Generations of acequia parciantes have built and maintained acequia infrastructure. NMAA remains committed to supporting local acequias securing resources for improvements to infrastructure and to advocating for climate-resilience in planning and design of irrigation works. Acequias must remain vigilant to disasters such as fires and floods and will need support to prepare for disasters and to navigate emergency management and disaster recovery.

Care for our Watersheds and Aquifers: Our watersheds, rivers, and aquifers are interconnected. Efforts to improve the health of our watersheds must be increased by an order of magnitude to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. Acequia leaders can be valuable partners in planning watershed restoration projects with soil and water conservation districts and other partners. Likewise, acequias have a role in protecting aquifers from groundwater depletion. It is vital that stronger conjunctive management be implemented in New Mexico to ensure that aquifers can be sustained for future generations. The acequia landscape, our waterways and farmland, which contribute to aquifer recharge, must be protected through various regulatory and legal tools.

Clean Water for Drinking, Growing Food, Wildlife, and Ceremonies: Climate-change induced water scarcity will likely exacerbate water quality problems in our streams and rivers. Pollution from industries, municipalities, weapons laboratories, and ski areas continues to be a concern because of detriment to water supplies, including surface waters used for irrigation. NMAA will continue to partner with advocates and community leaders in defending water from contamination and will work toward a regulatory framework that is effective in achieving clean water for our communities and future generations.

Food and Seed Sovereignty: Growing food and raising livestock are central to acequia continuity for centuries past and future. Re-localizing our food systems includes all the necessary work of protecting land and water as well as saving, protecting, and propagating native and landrace seeds. Our communities need a more robust support system for acequia-scale farming and ranching that includes paid training and apprenticeship opportunities, assistance with purchasing and using equipment, food system infrastructure for aggregation, storage, and distribution, and community support in providing a vibrant local market. We can build upon programs that incentivize making fresh, locally grown food affordable and available to the most vulnerable in our communities.

Land: In New Mexico, a tiny fraction of land is arable and these irrigated lands hold the promise of food sovereignty. Irrigated lands used for farmland and pasture are vulnerable to economic forces driving subdivision and development. All lands, including rangelands, are vulnerable to soil erosion, which will be exacerbated by climate change. Major investment of resources from the state and federal level for conservation programs is needed to restore the health of our landscape and to build healthy soils that support food systems and sequester carbon. It is imperative to people who wish to farm with people willing to lease or lend their land to be used for growing food. Acequias will continue to work with land grants to gain more recognition and protection for traditional land uses.

Youth Education and Leadership. Younger generations are inheriting a land vastly different from that known by our parents and grandparents. We are in a time of reckoning when we will be assessing our efforts to protect our land and water, gleaning our lessons learned, and supporting youth in taking on leadership roles in our movement. In 2022, NMAA will support existing youth projects, encourage networking between youth leaders, and incorporate youth leaders into NMAA projects, programs, and governance. Additionally, NMAA will collaborate with partners to develop curriculum inclusive of acequias and land grants for use by schools and organizations.

Organizing and Popular Education: For over three decades, the NMAA has been engaged as a grassroots organization to protect water and strengthen acequia agriculture. NMAA includes elders with deep roots in social justice and the civil rights movement. The dual climate and economic crises that we confront require us to learn from our past work to organize in our communities and to strengthen our efforts to build a grassroots base so that we can act in our collective interests. Our methods will be to embrace popular education methods and to involve youth in key roles in community organizing.

 

APPROVED BY THE CONGRESO DE LAS ACEQUIAS ON the 4th of DECEMBER, 2021.

Guidance on Acequia Meetings During the COVID Pandemic

Attention Acequia Commissioners and Mayordomos:

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.
  • Wear masks.
  • 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: serafina@lasacequias.org

If you would like NMAA support in hosting a online/phone meeting, contact Emily: emily@lasacequias.org

Acequias Decry Proposed Congressional Map

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Acequias Decry Proposed Congressional Map

(Santa Fe, NM). On Thursday morning, community leaders from northern New Mexico decried the proposed congressional maps as political disenfranchisement. Several northern New Mexico leaders gave testimony in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“This was our one opportunity in ten years to testify to a Senate committee on redistricting. Our voice matters,” said Yolanda Jaramillo, an acequia commissioner from Dixon.

“We are opposed to SB 1 because it erodes the political voice of northern New Mexico,” said Ralph Vigil, Chairman of the New Mexico Acequia Commission. “Our communities of interest will be diminished with SB 1 by adding a large swath of southeastern New Mexico to Congressional District 3.”

“We have a long legacy of civic engagement in northern New Mexico where we have been able to advocate for our communities,” said Garcia, “The changes to district 3 will make it more difficult for traditional Hispanic communities of northern New Mexico to have political representation of their choice.”

“We participated extensively in the Citizens Redistricting Committee. Those maps were more measured and moderate. The legislature should have considered those maps that were developed with public input,” said Harold Trujillo, a commissioner from Mora County. “Specifically, map concepts H and E had some similarities to SB 1 but the changes were not as extensive. Concept E incorporated acequia input.”

In the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, SB 1 proponents stated that the new map would make all three congressional districts more competitive. “Just drawing maps around percentages of Hispanic population does not tell the story of our communities and does not honor us as communities of interest,” added Garcia. “Voting statistics do not define us as a people.”

At the meeting, community members from both northern New Mexico an southeastern New Mexico both spoke in opposition to the new map. “This feels like a shotgun wedding between northern New Mexico and southeastern New Mexico being pushed by some powerful actors who are not listening to us,” remarked Yolanda Jaramillo.

 

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2021 Acequia Art & Photo Contest Winners!

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:

Youth Art

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”

Youth Photo

First Prize – Simona Santistevan, Acequia Madre del Sur, Taos

Second Prize -Isabela Gonzales of Peñasco

Youth Essay

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.”

Click here to read her full essay!

Adult Art

First Prize – Ariana Montez of La Puebla

“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).”

Adult Photo

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)

Apply today: Los Sembradores Farmer Training Program 2022

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 measures as 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.

2022 APPLICATIONS ARE DUE JANUARY 7th, 2022

If you are interested in applying for the program, click here to complete the application form and/orcontact: donne@lasacequias.org (505) 995-9644

Upper Hondo Flood Damage and Lessons For Acequias on Emergency Response

by David F. Garcia, NMAA Education & Outreach Coordinator

  Flood damage to the Antonio Sanchez Ditch, which included a damaged section of pipeline which conveyed water to numerous landowners. 

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.   

Jackie Powell, leads an emergency response team to view flood damage to numerous acequias.

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 very  difficult 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.

    Richard Montoya, Mayordomo of Upper Chosas ditch, led a tour of their main headgate, which was destroyed in the flooding.
  • 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, and  expressed 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:

David Montes, parciante on the Antonio Sanchez Ditch, led a tour of his orchard which had heirloom apples and other fruit. The orchard was severely damaged by silt and debris from catastrophic flooding.
  • 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 can  make 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) Programis a 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) EmergencyWhile 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. 

Fall 2021 – Acequia News Updates

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

Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández looks out on the Rio Chama River and Abeyta-Trujillo Acequia diversion with RCAA President Darel Madrid and Vice President, Tim Seaman. Photo credit: Senator Leo Jaramillo

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 to  Secretary 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 over  environmental 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 recent  legislative 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.

Acequia Funding Announced: Application Deadline October 25, 2021

NMAA is excited to announce a new funding source for acequia infrastructure, the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure Fund (ACDIF)! This fund is the result of legislation that passed in the 2019 legislative session (sponsored by the late Senator Carlos Cisneros) that directs $2.5 million dollars of funding each year to the Interstate Stream Commission for acequia projects.

The ISC has announced that they are now accepting applications from acequias for the fund. This new program builds upon years providing funding for acequia projects through the ISC with some key improvements:

  • Planning and engineering design: Unlike the previous ISC programs, funding from the ACDIF can be used to cover 100% of the cost of engineering design (up to $50,000). ISC staff may also assist with the planning phase of a project.
  • Construction: The ACDIF will cover up to $250,000 of the cost of an acequia project. Other state, federal, and local sources can be used as cost share including Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Capital Outlay, and local funds from Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

The new ACDIF program is designed to provide more support to acequias from start to finish by ensuring that acequias have an engineering design (and a cost estimate) prior to requesting funding for construction.  Applications for either engineering design or construction are due to the ISC by October 25, 2021. To be eligible, acequias are required to be compliant with audits and financial reporting, to secure any necessary easements, as well as other criteria that support project readiness. For assistance in completing the application and required attachments, contact Serafina – serafina@lasacequias.org. To get an application, contact Jonathan – jonathan.martinez@ose.state.nm