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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.¬†

‚Äč* 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. ‚Ä謆

For more talking points, click on the links below:

‚ÄčSB 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.

 

2022 Acequia Art Contest Winners

Thank you to everyone who shared their art, stories and photography with the 2022 Acequia Art Contest. Explore the winning entries below. All work was also shared at the 2022 Congreso de Las Acequias on December 9th & 10th, 2022!

First Prize, Adult Art – ‚ÄúEl angel, el santo y las acequia‚ÄĚ by Anita Rodriguez of Taos

Second Prize, Adult Art – ‚ÄúWater Is Life‚ÄĚ by Karen Blair, Acequia Madre de Rio Costilla

Third Prize, Adult Art – “Spring on the Acequia” by Terry Davis, Acequia Madre del Llano, Arroyo Hondo

Runner Up, Adult Art – “Todo lo que soy, se lo debo a mi Madre” by Ariana Montez, Acequia Madre de Santa Fe

First Prize, Adult Photo – Food Traditions Category – ‚ÄúPeach trees on an acequia plot‚ÄĚ by Anita Walsh, Corrales Lateral Ditch

Second Prize, Adult Photo – Food Traditions Category – ‚ÄúMartinez Traditions‚ÄĚ by Jolene Vigil, Acequia de Martinez de Abajo

Third Prize, Adult Photo – Food Traditions Category – By Anna Soto, Ponderosa Community Ditch

First Prize, Adult Photo – Regando Category – ‚ÄúSpringtime Planting‚ÄĚ by Billy Vigil, Cundiyo

Second Prize, Adult Photo – Regando Category¬† – ‚ÄúThe oldest sections of our acequias which were lined with rock by my ancestors‚ÄĚ by Sandy Escarcida, Las Acequias de Placitas

Third Prize, Adult Photo – Regando Category –¬† ‚ÄúRebuilding of the El Zagu√°n portion of the Canyon Road Community Ditch‚ÄĚ by Mara Saxer

First Prize, Adult Photo – Acequieros Working The Land Category – by Donatella Davanzo

Second Prize, Adult Photo – Acequieros Working The Land Category – “Planting garlic in mixed, irrigated plot of fruit trees and herbs” by Anita Walsh, Corrales Lateral Ditch

Third Prize, Adult Photo – Acequieros Working The Land Category – ‚ÄúLa Pala‚ÄĚ by Anna Soto, Ponderosa Community Ditch

First Prize, Adult Storytelling – Making Chaquegue Video by Clyde Gardu√Īo, Acequia de Atalaya Arroyo Hondo – click here to download the video

Runner up, Adult Storytelling – ‚ÄúOpening Minds & Lifting Hearts at Sanchez Farm Open Space‚ÄĚ essay by Nell Burrus of Arenal Acequia, Albuquerque – click here to read the essayPhoto of Sanchez Farms via Bernalillo County

Youth Photo Winner – ‚ÄúBasket of Calabasitas‚ÄĚ by Zachary Nash Archuleta, Southside Acequia, Vadito

Youth Art Winner – ‚ÄúThriving Communities‚ÄĚ by Selene Duran, Los Cordovas #1 Acequia, Taos

Youth Storytelling Winner – “What Acequia Culture Means To Me” Alyson Archuleta, Southside Acequia, Vadito – click here to read the essay!

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.
‚ÄúWe will forever measure our lives as ‚Äėbefore the fire‚Äô and ‚Äėafter the fire,‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄĒ 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 РCOMMISSIONER/PARCIANTE/MEMBER OF…] the [INSERT ACEQUIA OR COMMUNITY NAME]. 

[IF DESIRED РADD 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 ‚ÄúTaos Ski Valley Gondola and Other Improvements Project‚ÄĚ (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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 200 acre-feet water right and conditions of approval associated with the Taos Ski Valley‚Äôs 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.