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Emergency Watershed Protection Program Application Documents

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.
NMAA is here to assist and we are urging everyone to submit these very simple applications. Contact serafina@lasacequia.org or call 505-995-9644 for assistance.

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:

Taos Ski Valley Expansion Sample Scoping Comment Letter

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.

Respectfully,

[INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]

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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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 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.”

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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