THREE LEGISLATORS SAY THE NAVAJO WATER SETTLEMENT IS INVALID UNLESS THE LEGISLATURE APPROVES IT

On August 9, 2016, three New Mexico state legislators filed a brief in the New Mexico Court of Appeals, contending that the Navajo water settlement signed by Governor Bill Richardson is not valid unless the Legislature enacts the agreement into law.  The three legislators are Representative Paul Bandy (R-Aztec); Representative Carl Trujillo (D-Pojaque); and Senator Steve Neville (R-San Juan).  They argue that Governor Richardson had no constitutional authority by himself to sign an agreement with the Navajo Nation that would give the Tribe more than 600,000 acre-feet of water from the San Juan River.

According to the lawmakers, Governor Richardson’s action is unconstitutional under a 1995 decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court.  In State ex rel Clark v. Johnson, the Supreme Court struck down an compact which Governor Gary Johnson had signed with several tribes and pueblos to legalize casino gambling by the tribes.  The Supreme Court ruled that a governor does not have the power to bind the State to a compact with an Indian tribe unless the Legislature enacts the compact into law.  “Governor Richardson’s agreement with the Navajos is just like the compact Governor Johnson signed with the pueblos, except this compact deals with water, not gambling, “ said Senator Neville.

According to the legislators, the agreement is not binding until it is enacted by Congress, and the Navajo Tribal Council, and the New Mexico Legislature.  “The United States Congress and the Navajo Tribal Council have enacted the agreement into law, but the New Mexico Legislature has not.  No Governor has the authority to bind the State of New Mexico to a perpetual agreement like this without action by the Legislature itself, as the elected representatives of the people.”

The brief also points out that the Navajo settlement violates a statute passed by the 2005 Legislature, requiring that a tribal water settlement must settle all of the tribe’s water claims.   The Navajo agreement does not settle the Tribe’s water claims in the Little Colorado Basin or the Rio Grande Basin.  These claims could be substantial.

The three legislators are represented by Brad Cates, a former state legislator who represented Bernalillo County in the House of Representatives from 1975 to 1982.

To read a highlighted copy of the brief, CLICK HERE

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Navajo Litigation – Water Owners File Brief in New Mexico Court of Appeals

After months of delay, the New Mexico Court of Appeals finally accepted a brief from the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association and the community ditches on the San Juan and Animas Rivers.  TO READ THE BRIEF CLICK HERE  IT HAS A GOOD SUMMARY OF THE NAVAJO LITIGATION.

The brief was delayed by the Navajo Nation, the United States, and the San Juan Water Commission.  They wanted to limit the size of the brief that the community ditches could file.  The court ultimately allowed the Association to file a brief of 16,000 words, substantially more than the 11,000 words usually allowed.  The court recognized that the Navajo water claim is much more complex than a typical lawsuit.

The supporters of the Navajo settlement will be filing their answer briefs around September 8.  Then the Association will file a reply brief around September 28.  We will post all the briefs on this website.

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New Mexico House of Representatives Passes Memorial to Protect Water Rights

By a vote of 58 – 1, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed an official House Memorial asking the state engineer and the courts to provide greater protections for water rights owners.  House Memorial 56 was co-sponsored by Representative Paul Bandy, Republican from Aztec, and Representative Carl Trujillo, Democrat from Pojaque.

House Memorial 56 tells the courts and the state engineer that they need to use all available data sources when they compile mailing lists to notify water owners about water cases.  In particular, county real estate records and ditch membership lists should be used to identify current water owners.

The memorial also states that the state engineer should make efforts to locate water owners when mail comes back as undeliverable.

“My constituents are having the same problems as Representative Bandy’s constituents – they are not getting notice of official proceedings that hurt their water rights,” said Representative Trujillo.

“This was an overwhelming vote by legislators from both parties that the water law system needs to be reformed right now,” said Paul Bandy.  “State Engineer Tom Blaine is working hard to reform the state engineer’s office, and we’re supporting what he’s trying to do.”

To read House Memorial 56, click here: HM056 of 2016 mailing lists for water rights owners.

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WATER USERS FILE THEIR APPELLATE BRIEFS IN THE NAVAJO CASE

On January 8 the San Juan Agricultural Water Users filed their briefs in the New Mexico Court of Appeals against the Richardson-Navajo settlement.  Two briefs were filed, one by the community ditches on the San Juan main stem, and another by the acequias on the Animas River.  Each group joined in the arguments by the other.
The briefs present strong arguments based on Western water law and the specific facts about the Navajo water claim.  You can read the briefs (best in this order) Brief in Chief by San Juan Ditches and Brief in Chief by Animas River Acequias.  The other side is supposed to file their answer briefs in 45 days; after that we will file reply briefs.  No date has been set for oral argument.
Here is a selection of some of the key points in the briefs.

BRIEF IN CHIEF BY SAN JUAN COMMUNITY DITCHES

Introduction and Summary
Without conducting a trial, the district court awarded more than 635,000 acre-feet of water from the San Juan River to the Navajo Nation.  The lower court granted summary judgment approving an agreement between Bill Richardson and the Navajo tribe that gives the Navajo tribe 635,729 acre-feet per year from the San Juan River.  635,000 acre-feet is more than 6 times the amount of water diverted by the Albuquerque metropolitan area.

POINT 4.
NIIP is not PIA.  The Navajo Nation, U.S. and OSE admitted this fact during the summary judgment process.  Therefore an award of water rights for this irrigation project is contrary to the Winters cases and all applicable federal and state statutes.

POINT 7.
The Richardson-Navajo agreement is a nullity because it has not been enacted as a statute by the New Mexico Legislature, as required by State ex rel. Clark v. Johnson and Pueblo of Santa Ana.

POINT 9.
The Richardson-Navajo settlement violates § 72-1-11(C)(1), which requires a tribal water rights settlement to resolve all of the tribe’s water rights claims.

BRIEF IN CHIEF BY ANIMAS RIVER ACEQUIAS

A.    By signing the Navajo agreement, Governor Richardson attempted to limit the jurisdiction of the New Mexico courts; the authority of the state engineer; and a water owner’s constitutional right to de novo judicial review.  The Navajo agreement subjects San Juan water owners to a Navajo administrative tribunal, even when the water owners are not Navajo and do not live on the reservation.

B.    The U.S., Navajo Nation, and the OSE violated due process by deliberately using defective lists for mailing notice of the inter se, even after the acequias offered to provide better membership lists at no cost to the government.

C.    The lower court prevented more than 9,000 water owners from having an attorney in the Navajo inter se.  The court required every individual water owner to sign an attorney contract in ink, contrary to George v. Caton

F.    There are no permits for the water rights claimed by the Navajo Nation and the United States.

J.    The court ruled on summary judgment that water for endangered species is irrelevant.

M.     If the Richardson-Navajo agreement ever becomes final, in most years there will be large water deficits on the San Juan River system.  These water shortages will cut off or cut back the water supply to the Rio Grande through the San Juan-Chama Project, impairing the water supply for Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

CC.    The Richardson-Navajo agreement is unfair to the other tribes and pueblos in New Mexico.  Awarding 635,000 acre-feet to the Navajo Nation will eliminate or reduce the amount of water available for the Aamodt and Taos settlements.

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Update on the Navajo Litigation

The appeal stage of the Navajo litigation is going more or less as we projected in 2014.

The community ditches and the San Juan Water Agricultural Users Association appealed Judge Wechsler’s decision to approve the Richardson-Navajo settlement.  The appeal is working its way slowly through the New Mexico Court of Appeals, which is the intermediate appellate court.

The community ditches were supposed to file their first brief this week, but it turns out that most of the audio tape recordings for the hearings in 2012 and 2013 were not sent to the Court of Appeals.  So we have asked for additional time until the gaps in the record are filled in.

Briefing in the Court of Appeals will probably be finished in the first quarter of 2016.  There will be oral argument sometime in mid-2016.

No matter how the Court of Appeals rules, their decision can be appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court by either side.

It’s impossible to predict the outcome of the appeal, but there are reasons for an optimistic attitude.  There are a lot of legal problems with the Richardson-Navajo agreement, and with the way the district court handled the case.

Meanwhile, we are trying to work with the new State Engineer, Tom Blaine.  Most of the early reports are favorable.  He seems willing to take a fresh look at the way the OSE is operated.

Financial report:  Litigation expenses are on the track we projected in 2014.  We sent out one assessment for 2015, and there will be one more in 2016.  It looks like those assessments should cover the cost of the appeal, if the ditches get caught up on their arrears, and if nothing else happens in the litigation.

There are a few ditches that have unpaid assessments going back as far as April, 2012.  Those need to get caught up on their payments, because it’s not fair to the other ditches – or to this firm.  Most of the ditches have been good about paying.

And don’t forget to pay your dues to the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association.  The Association has done a great job for you over the years.

Best wishes to you all,

Victor Marshall & Shirley Meridith

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ALERT ! – TOXIC WASTE COMING DOWN ANIMAS RIVER – CLOSE YOUR DITCH UNTIL IT PASSES

ALERT ! – TOXIC WASTE COMING DOWN ANIMAS RIVER – CLOSE YOUR DITCH UNTIL IT PASSES

Thursday, August 6, 2015

SILVERTON (AP) – The La Plata County Sheriff’s office closed the Animas River to all watercraft Thursday afternoon after it was contaminated with about a million gallons of mine waste that turned it orange.

The river is closed to watercraft including canoes, kayaks, tubes, rafts and other flotation devices from the Northern San Juan County line to the southern County line at the Colorado/New Mexico State line until further notice. All such watercraft must be removed from the Animas River within those locations.

The order will remain in effect until it is determined that the river is safe. EPA test results of the Animas River are expected within 24-48 hours, and the order will be re-evaluated at that time.

An Environmental Protection Agency and State Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety team are working to investigate the contamination at the Gold King Mine in San Juan County unexpectedly triggered a large release of mine waste water.

The EPA says about one million gallons of mine waste, containing high levels of sediment and metals, spewed into Cement Creek, which runs into the Animas.

Several workers on-site at the time were unharmed.

Radio Durango reports that the city has shut down water intakes until the contaminated water has passed.
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ANIMAS RIVER CLOSED TO PUBLIC AFTER MINE DUMPS 1M GALLONS OF WASTE

Updated: 08/06/2015 5:48 PM | Created: 08/06/2015 10:54 AM
By: KOB.com staff

SILVERTON, Colo. – A mine waste spill has spewed about a million gallons of orange-colored discharge into a tributary of the Animas River.

The Environmental Protection Agency told the Denver Post it triggered the release while using heavy machinery to investigate pollutants at the Gold King Mine north of Silverton.

The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office has closed the river to the public.

“This decision was made in the interest of public health after consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, San Juan Basin Health Department and representatives of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe,” advised Sheriff Sean Smith. “This Order shall remain in effect until it is determined that the river is safe. EPA test results of the Animas River are expected within 24-48 hours, and the Order will be re-evaluated at that time.”

Environmental authorities are scrambling to assess damage from the leak, caused when a plug blew at the Gold King Mine near Silverton. Earlier today, officials say that drinking water is not affected and that the spill is not harmful to humans. The primary pollutants are iron and zinc.

The EPA says that about 1 million gallons of mine waste spewed into Cement Creek, which feeds the Animas.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment says that there are no fish populations in the Cement Creek watershed because of longstanding water quality impairment.

The Bureau of Reclamation will release more water from the Navajo Dam in order to dilute the merger from the Animas into the San Juan River in Farminigton, NM.

City of Farmington officials are urging residents to stay out of the river and to keep live stock from drinking the water if discoloration is present.

Farmington’s drinking water is unaffected, city officials said.

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LEGISLATURE PASSES STATUTE REQUIRING WATER HEARINGS TO BE HELD LOCALLY, NOT IN SANTA FE

The 2015 Legislature passed a law requiring the State Engineer to hold administrative hearings in the county where the water is located, not in Santa Fe.  In recent years, the Office of the State Engineer has started to require water owners to go to Santa Fe for hearings, even though most people can’t afford the time and money to go there.
Senator Steve Neville and Representative Paul Bandy both introduced bills to require local hearings, and so did other legislators.
At first, OSE staff testified against this legislation.  However, the new State Engineer Tom Blaine met with Bandy and Neville and others, and then instructed his staff to support the idea.  The final bill was sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle – it passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Martinez.  Senate Bill 276.
“We appreciate Tom Blaine’s support – it’s a good start for the new State Engineer,” said Paul Bandy.
Steve Neville said “It’s more than 400 miles round trip to Santa Fe, so this really helps water owners in San Juan County.”

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STATE ENGINEER REPLACED Day after Verhines speaks in Bloomfield about Navajo Water Rights Settlement, his replacement is announced

By Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
Updated:   11/21/2014 07:42:41 PM MST0 comments

FARMINGTON — A day after State Engineer Scott Verhines came to Bloomfield to answer questions about the Navajo Water Rights Settlement, Gov. Susana Martinez announced that he is being replaced Friday.

“I really am shocked. He gave no hint of that,” said Bob Oxford, a retired state water engineer who sat on a panel at the question-and-answer forum Thursday night at Bloomfield High School. The event attracted approximately 70 people.

Verhines was appointed in 2011 and will be replaced by Tom Blaine on Dec. 1, according to a press release. Blaine is the director of the New Mexico Environment Department’s Environmental Health Division. He has more than 28 years of engineering experience.

A call placed to Verhines’ cell phone Friday evening was not returned by deadline.

Lela Hunt, spokeswoman for Verhines’ office, said she does not know why Martinez is replacing him.

Oxford described Thursday’s forum as a “dog and pony show” that included the same lawyers and staff members that many in the audience already had heard defend the water rights settlement. A few people in auditorium made quiet but snide remarks about the lawyers when they stood to speak.

At the door to the auditorium, Bloomfield resident Linda Corwin was distributing fliers that listed several questions about the settlement. She encouraged those who were entering to ask them of Verhines.

Corwin was one of a few San Juan County residents who picketed Martinez’s appearance in the county on Aug. 29. She was protesting the water rights settlement, she said, and she told Martinez that Verhines needed to visit the county to explain the settlement.

Judge James Wechsler approved the water rights settlement on Aug. 19 in Aztec District Court. His decision allows the Navajo Nation to take more than 600,000 acre-feet of water from the San Juan River each year.

In mid May, three legislators and an official with an agency that represents San Juan River irrigation ditches filed a lawsuit, asking the state Supreme Court to cancel the settlement.

The lawsuit states that the settlement is void because, just before leaving office in December 2010, then-Gov. Bill Richardson signed the agreement without submitting it first to the state Legislature, as is required in the state’s Constitution.

Verhines responded by saying that the New Mexico Court of Appeals should handle the matter, but officials say that could take years.

Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, asked the first question, one that dealt with the processing time for water rights transfers by Verhines’ office. One transfer, in the Aztec district office, has taken approximately three years, according to the question Bandy asked.

“It seems like we could be more efficient,” the state lawmaker said.

Verhines said his office has a backlog of approximately 1,500 water rights transfers. His staff has to be efficient, he said, but it also has to make good decisions. Many of the transfers are driven by oil and gas development, and drought, he said.

“Those aren’t excuses. I don’t like being an agency that’s keeping businesses from doing business,” he said.

He also indicated the Legislature shares the blame. His office, he said, doesn’t control its own budget.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.

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STATE ENGINEER SCOTT VERHINES RESIGNS

According to information from the office of Governor Martinez, State Engineer Scott Verhines resigned effective December 1. His replacement will be Tom Blaine.

More details to follow.

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STATE ENGINEER WILL ANSWER QUESTIONS NOVEMBER 20 AT BLOOMFIELD HIGH

State Engineer Scott Verhines has agreed to participate in a question and answer program about the San Juan River at the Bloomfield High School auditorium, at 6:30 pm on Thursday, November 20, 2014.  The program is hosted by the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association, and it is open to the public.  PLEASE INVITE EVERYONE TO COME AND PARTICIPATE.

Mr. Verhines and some members of his staff will participate in a question and answer session with a panel representing local irrigators and water users.  The local panelists will be Representative Paul Bandy, Robert Oxford, and Jim Lukow.  The session will be moderated by Mike Sullivan, President of the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association.

During the first hour, each side will have 5 minutes to respond to specific questions that were submitted in advance.  Then the meeting will be open to questions from the audience.

“We want to thank Governor Susana Martinez for helping to arrange this meeting with the State Engineer,” said Jim Rogers of the Association.  “People in San Juan County have been asking a lot of questions about what will happen to the water supply from the San Juan River, but we haven’t heard any clear answers yet.  We’re glad that Mr. Verhines is coming to our county.”

Here are some of the topics for the panel:

Is there enough water in the San Juan River for the agreement signed by Governor Bill Richardson, giving 600,000 acre-feet to the Navajo Nation?

The federal government is demanding 700,000 acre-feet for endangered fish.  Where will this water come from?

Should Governor Richardson’s agreement with the Navajo Nation be submitted to the New Mexico Legislature?

Why is it taking years for the State Engineer to approve water transfers in San Juan County?

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IMPORTANT MEETING JULY 8 Farmington Civic Center 7pm

The San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association will hold a members meeting on TUESDAY, JULY 8, 7PM AT THE FARMINGTON CIVIC CENTER, 200 West Arrington, Exhibition Hall 1.

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MEETING !  We will discuss the Navajo litigation, which is now on appeal; issues with the State Engineer; recent developments; budgets; and legislative efforts at reforms.  PLEASE EMAIL YOUR NEIGHBORS TO COME.

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Supreme Court Declines To Hear Legislator Petition on Navajo Agreement

The New Mexico Supreme Court has declined to hear an extraordinary petition filed by three state legislators who asked the Interstate Stream Commission and the State Engineer to send the Navajo water agreement to the Legislature.  The three legislators are Sen. Steve Neville (R-San Juan), Rep. Carl Trujillo (D-Santa Fe), and Rep. Paul Bandy (R.-San Juan).

The Supreme Court denied the legislators petition in a one-page order, without an opinion or explanation. This is a procedural decision, not a decision on the merits of the legislators’ position. The court did not rule one way or another on whether the Navajo agreement must be sent to the Legislature.  That issue will be decided during the normal appeals process, through New Mexico Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court.  This process normally takes 3 to 5 years.

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Three legislators challenge Navajo Water Rights Settlement, ask state Supreme Court to send it before Legislature

Lawsuit asks state Supreme Court to send settlement before Legislature
By Dan Schwartz The Daily Times
The San Juan River is seen on Wednesday from the Among the Water Trail off of the Bisti Highway in Farmington. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

The San Juan River is seen on Wednesday from the Among the Water Trail off of the Bisti Highway in Farmington. (Megan Farmer — The Daily Times)

Rep. Paul C. Bandy, R-Aztec (Courtesy of New Mexico Legislature)

Rep. Paul C. Bandy, R-Aztec (Courtesy of New Mexico Legislature)

FARMINGTON — Three legislators and an official with an agency that represents San Juan River irrigation ditches are asking New Mexico’s highest court to cancel the Navajo Water Rights Settlement because they say its approval violated the state constitution.

“There was no Legislature involvement,” said Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday morning states the water rights settlement is void because former Gov. Bill Richardson in December 2010, just before leaving office, signed the compact with the Navajo Nation and federal government without submitting it first to the New Mexico Legislature, as is required in the state’s constitution.

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3 Lawmakers Sue over 2010 Navajo Water Deal

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 11:48 pm, Wed May 14, 2014.

By Milan Simonich The New Mexican | 0 comments

Three New Mexico legislators filed a lawsuit Wednesday, claiming former Gov. Bill Richardson overstepped his powers by authorizing a settlement on water rights with the Navajo Nation.

The suit asks the New Mexico Supreme Court to order a legislative review of the agreement that Richardson negotiated with the tribe in December 2010. Richardson, a Democrat, left office less than a month later.

Lawmakers who brought the suit said every contractual agreement between New Mexico and a tribal government is subject to approval by the state Legislature, regardless of whether it involves casinos or water. They cited a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling against then-Gov. Gary Johnson, who had signed a tribal gambling compact without authorization from the Legislature.

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THREE LEGISLATORS FILE SUIT IN NM SUPREME COURT TO SEND NAVAJO SETTLEMENT TO THE LEGISLATURE

Three legislators have filed suit in the New Mexico Supreme Court against the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission, asking the Court to declare that Governor Bill Richardson had no authority to sign an agreement with the Navajo Nation without authorization from the Legislature. The lawsuit asks the Court to declare that the proposed Navajo compact is a nullity unless and until the Legislature enacts it as a statute.

The three legislators are Senator Steve Neville (R-Farmington), Representative Paul Bandy (R-Aztec), and Representative Carl Trujillo (D-Nambe). They are joined by Jim Rogers on behalf of the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association.

Some key points:

No Governor has the constitutional authority to sign an agreement or compact with a tribe without statutory authorization from the Legislature. The Legislature has not passed a bill enacting the Navajo water compact into law. Therefore the Navajo water agreement is a nullity, unless the Legislature votes it into law.

“It makes no difference that the United States Congress has authorized the Navajo water compact, because the New Mexico Legislature has not.”

The Interstate Stream Commission is required to submit all proposed water compacts to the Legislature for final approval. The Legislature can approve or reject or modify the agreement.

If the Navajo Nation gets this water, it can export the water to downstream states like Arizona and California.

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LEGISLATORS LISTEN CAREFULLY TO SAN JUAN AGRICULTURAL WATER USERS

The New Mexico Legislature held water hearings in Farmington last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  The Legislators listened with real attention when the San Juan Water Users gave testimony pointing out the problems with the Navajo “settlement.”

The Farmington Daily Times printed an article on August 30 with an accurate account of the hearings.  We have highlighted some of the key parts here.

*******
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PLEASE COME TO LEGISLATIVE MEETINGS NEXT WEEK IN FARMINGTON

The water committees of the New Mexico Legislature are meeting in Farmington on August 28, 29, and 30.  The committees will conduct hearings on the San Juan Basin drought and the Navajo settlement.

Meetings are open to the public, and you are encouraged to attend any part of the hearings.

The meetings will be held in the Henderson Fine Arts Center at San Juan College in Farmington.

On Wednesday, August 28,  1:30 – 5:00 pm, the Drought Subcommittee will have a hearing on the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study.   The study explains the increasing drought and shrinking water supply on the San Juan River and the other parts of the Colorado.

On Thursday, August 29 at 1:30 pm, the Water and Natural Resources will have a hearing on the Navajo water rights settlement.  JIM ROGERS IS SCHEDULED TO SPEAK ON BEHALF OF THE SAN JUAN AGRICULTURAL WATER USERS ASSOCIATION.

PLEASE TELL EVERYONE TO ATTEND.  THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO TALK TO LEGISLATORS ABOUT THE SAN JUAN WATER CRISIS.

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SPECIAL MEETING AUGUST 28 – 6:30 PM

The San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association will have a special meeting on Wednesday, August 28 at 6:30 pm in the Bloomfield High School auditorium.  We will discuss the latest ruling in the Navajo water case, and what happens next.

Please tell other people who have water rights on the ditches that are participating in the litigation.

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JUDGE APPROVES NAVAJO CLAIM WITHOUT A TRIAL

On August 16, water judge James Wechsler filed an opinion approving the Navajo Nation water claim without a trial.   The judge refused to allow the community ditches to call witnesses to testify at trial.

The 65 page opinion is long and technical.  It sidesteps many of the key issues raised by the community ditches.  For example, the judge ruled that it is irrelevant whether there is enough water in the San Juan River and the Animas River to supply other water rights holders and the Navajo Nation at the same time.

Since there will be no trial this fall, the court will enter a final order sometime in the coming weeks.   After that, the case will go up on appeal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals and then ultimately to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association will hold a meeting on August 27 or 28 to discuss the situation.  Details on the meeting will be posted soon.

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PLEASE COME TO KEY COURT HEARINGS ON JUNE 11-12

PLEASE COME TO KEY COURT HEARINGS ON JUNE 11-12 IN AZTEC

In the Navajo water case, Judge James Wechsler has scheduled two days of hearings on June 11 and 12, 2013 at the courthouse in Aztec, starting at 8:30 am each day.  The court will hear motions filed by the Navajo Nation, and counter-motions filed by the Community Ditch Defendants and others.
The Navajo Tribe and the State Engineer (Scott Verhines) and the U.S. claim that the Tribe should be awarded more than 600,000 acre-feet of water from the San Juan Basin without a trial.
The Community Ditch defendants are claiming that the Navajo Tribe cannot prove that it is entitled to 600,000 acre-feet under federal law or state law.
THESE HEARINGS MIGHT DECIDE THE ENTIRE CASE, OR PARTS OF THE CASE, IN FAVOR OF ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER.  SO YOU SHOULD TRY TO ATTEND.  IT IS FINE IF YOU CAN ONLY COME FOR AN HOUR OR TWO.

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DROUGHT GETS WORSE – WATER SUPPLY 18% OF NORMAL

DROUGHT GETS WORSE
Water supply forecast is 18% of normal.

The drought in the San Juan basin is getting worse.  Here are the latest forecasts from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center:

San Juan – Navajo Reservoir :   18% of average
San Juan – Farmington :    21%
Animas – Durango :   29%
San Juan – Bluff UT : 18%

To look at these forecasts, go to    http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/   – click WATER SUPPLY    – click  SAN JUAN   – click on any triangle on the map to see the forecasts for that point.   The computer runs are updated daily, so look at   “ESP Percent Average”.

To look at more data, go to   http://www.sanjuanflows.info/  – click RESERVOIRS  – for graphs and data on Navajo Reservoir.    As of May 20, Navajo Reservoir is at 29% of active capacity.

ON MAY 29, THERE WILL BE AN EMERGENCY MEETING FOR DITCH REPRESENTATIVES TO DISCUSS THE CRISIS.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 29, 6:30 PM AT MCGEE PARK – ROOM A.

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IMPORTANT SPECIAL MEETING MAY 29

IMPORTANT SPECIAL MEETING
MAY 29, 6:30PM
McGee Park – Room A

The San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, May 29 at 6:30 pm to discuss how to handle the water crisis in 2013.  For the 2013 irrigation season, the water supply is forecast to be about 25% of normal.   This year could be as bad as the extreme dry years in 2002 – 2003.

THIS WILL BE A CLOSED MEETING FOR REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DITCHES THAT ARE PARTICIPATING IN THE LITIGATION EFFORT.  WE WANT BOARD MEMBERS FROM EVERY DITCH BOARD TO ATTEND

Our attorney Victor Marshall will give us some options to discuss about coping with the water shortage, and update us on the Navajo water litigation.

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WATER USERS FILE COUNTERCLAIM TO PROTECT THEIR WATER RIGHTS

On October 19, the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association and 26 community ditches filed an Answer, Objections and Counterclaim against the Navajo Nation, the U.S. and the State Engineer, asking the court to reject the proposed Navajo agreement.   To read a highlighted copy of the counterclaim,  you can click here.

The Community Ditch Defendants say that the court must reject the proposed agreement because it is unfair and contrary to state and federal laws.  The agreement would give the Navajos 606,000 acre-feet of diversion, which is six times as much water as the City of Albuquerque, and twice as much as the City of Phoenix.  This is far more than the Navajos need for the Reservation in New Mexico.  If the Navajos get all this water, they can sell it to California, Arizona, Utah, or Nevada.

KEY POINTS IN COUNTERCLAIM
BY THE COMMUNITY DITCHES

● The court should order the U.S. and the State Engineer to operate the river to provide sufficient “wet” water to satisfy the water rights of the community ditches.
● The Navajos are entitled to a substantial amount of water, but nothing remotely approaching 606,000 acre-feet.  That is six times the amount supplied to the City of Albuquerque, and twice the amount for the City of Phoenix.
● According to the 2010 Census, only 42,000 Native Americans live on the Reservation in New Mexico.  They do not need 606,000 acre-feet, and they cannot put that much water to beneficial use on the Reservation in New Mexico.
● If the court were to award that much water, the Navajos could export the water to Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.  If the Navajos simply leave the water in the river, it flows down to Lake Meade (Las Vegas), the Central Arizona Project (Phoenix and Tucson), and the Southern California Aqueduct (Los Angeles and Beverly Hills).
● The proposed water deal signed by Bill Richardson and the Navajos is illegal.  It violates the New Mexico Constitution, which states that the waters in New Mexico belong to the public through prior appropriation and beneficial use.  The United States approved and agreed to these laws as part of the process whereby New Mexico was admitted to the Union as a State, in 1912.  So Native Americans in New Mexico must prove their water claims based on prior appropriation and beneficial use, just like everybody else.
● NIIP is a waste of water, not a beneficial use.  Decades of actual experience have proved that NIIP is not “practicably irrigable acreage” (PIA).
● The proposed Richardson-Navajo deal violates the Colorado River Compact (1922) and the Upper Basin Compact (1948).
● The Richardson-Navajo agreement is null and void, because Governor Richardson had no legal authority to sign it.  No Governor has authority to sign away water rights which belong to the public, not to the government.
● The court should reject the proposed agreement, and order the U.S. and the Navajo Tribe to begin good faith negotiations with the community ditches and other water users, towards a comprehensive and fair settlement.

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2012 Legislature stops funding for Navajo “settlement”

The 2012 New Mexico Legislature eliminated any additional funding for the Navajo water “settlement” after several members of the San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association testified against any more funding.   Prior to the session, interim committees and the State Engineer (Mr.  D’Antonio) had recommended $15 million in capital outlay funding for Indian water settlements (Navajo, Taos, Aamodt).   By the end of the session, the Legislature authorized $ 0 (zero) capital funding for the Navajo project or the others.

The San Juan Agricultural Water Users Association testified against any additional funding for the Navajo “settlement” at hearings before the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee; the House Agriculture & Water Committee; the Senate Finance Committee;, and the Senate Conservation Committee.  Mike Sullivan, Jim Fisher and Jim Lukow testified that the Navajo project should not be funded, particularly the Navajo-Gallup Pipeline.  Victor Marshall also provided information.  The proposed “settlement” may be rejected by the court, and the pipeline may not be funded by the federal government.

So the State should not spend any more money on a project that might not happen.

The San Juan Agricultural Water Users have no position on the Taos or Aamodt settlements, and they do not oppose the Farmington-Shiprock pipeline.  But the public should not spend any money on the rest of the proposed Navajo water deal.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE MEMO TO THE LEGISLATURE.

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Ag Water Users protest application for temporary permit for Navajo pipeline

The SJAWUA has protested an application for a temporary permit for a pilot project for the proposed Navajo-Gallup pipeline.  CLICK HERE TO READ THE PROTEST.

Here are some key points from the protest:


OBJECTION AND PROTEST TO APPLICATION SP-3215-T

The persons listed below object to and protest Application SP-3215-T, filed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 2200 Bloomfield Highway, Farmington, NM 87401 on or about August 16, 2011.  The grounds for this objection and protest include, but are not limited to, the following:

– The application is not based on any approved permit, or approved application.   Upon information and belief, Application 3215 was “endorsed” by the State Engineer, whatever that might mean, on December 17, 1968, the day after it was filed, but the application was never approved, and no permit has been issued.  If a permit was issued, it is invalid.

– Upon information and belief, Application 3215 requests an excessive amount of water – 500cfs – including seepage and return flows, without any factual or scientific basis for that claim.


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Attn: All Water Right Owners of San Juan County

A pre-hearing scheduling conference will be held before the San Juan Adjudication court on Monday October 3, 2011 at 9:00 am at the McGee Park Convention Center. Please try to attend this meeting. We would like to fill the convention center with agricultural water users. Please contact your ditch representative or a Board member if further information is needed.

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Current Adjudications

Current adjudications will be posted in the Adjudications category. Coming soon…

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Senator Steve Neville’s Senate Memorial No. SM37

Senator Steve Neville’s Senate Memorial No. SM37 requesting Congress to Approve the Navajo Water Rights Settlement, the text of which is below and also attached.

We should oppose all of this – please pass this on to others. Get people to call Neville’s office and say they are opposed to his Senate Memorial and ask “why are you selling us out?” etc. etc.

Here’s Neville’s contact info:
Capitol Office Phone: 986-4266
Office Phone: (505) 327-5450
Home Phone: (505) 334-8726
E-mail: <mailto:nmsenate@msn.com>nmsenate@msn.com

Victor

SENATE MEMORIAL 37
48th legislature – STATE OF NEW MEXICO – second session, 2008
INTRODUCED BY
Steven P. Neville
A MEMORIAL
REQUESTING CONGRESS TO APPROVE THE NAVAJO WATER RIGHTS SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATED BY NEW MEXICO AND THE NAVAJO NATION.
WHEREAS, resolution of the Navajo water rights claims is to the advantage of the state of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and the United States; and
WHEREAS, the New Mexico interstate stream commission and the Navajo Nation negotiated a proposed settlement, which has been submitted to congress; and
WHEREAS, the proposed settlement calls for increased diversions to Navajo lands near Shiprock; and
WHEREAS, the priority date of these diversions, 1858, is significantly older than non-Navajo rights; and
WHEREAS, New Mexico is subject to frequent drought, creating water shortages that would be borne by non-Navajos; and
WHEREAS, Navajo lake has extensive storage capacity that could be used to offset these shortages;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that congress be requested to approve the proposed Navajo water rights settlement as negotiated by New Mexico and the Navajo Nation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as part of the settlement, congress be requested to support provisions for storage of thirty thousand acre-feet of water in Navajo lake to be used by non-Navajo irrigators in times of severe drought and water shortages; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this memorial be transmitted to the New Mexico congressional delegation, the Navajo Nation and the governor.

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House Memorial 43

HOUSE MEMORIAL 43

48th legislature – STATE OF NEW MEXICO – second session, 2008

INTRODUCED BY

Paul C. Bandy

A MEMORIAL

REQUESTING CONGRESS TO APPROVE THE NAVAJO WATER RIGHTS SETTLEMENT NEGOTIATED BY NEW MEXICO AND THE NAVAJO NATION.

WHEREAS, resolution of the Navajo water rights claims is to the advantage of the state of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and the United States; and

WHEREAS, the New Mexico interstate stream commission and the Navajo Nation negotiated a proposed settlement, which has been submitted to congress; and

WHEREAS, the proposed settlement calls for increased diversions to Navajo lands near Shiprock; and

WHEREAS, the priority date of these diversions, 1858, is significantly older than non-Navajo rights; and

WHEREAS, New Mexico is subject to frequent drought, creating water shortages that would be borne by non-Navajos; and

WHEREAS, Navajo lake has extensive storage capacity that could be used to offset these shortages;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that congress be requested to approve the proposed Navajo water rights settlement as negotiated by New Mexico and the Navajo Nation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as part of the settlement, congress be requested to support provisions for storage of thirty thousand acre-feet of water in Navajo lake to be used by non-Navajo irrigators in times of severe drought and water shortages; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this memorial be transmitted to the New Mexico congressional delegation, the Navajo Nation and the governor.

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NAVAJO RESERVOIR RELEASES

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2008

Mike – as per your phone message, here’s the latest info on the
operating plan for Navajo Reservoir. This planned operation does 3
things:
1) It meets the operating criteria contained in the San Juan Recovery
Program’s flow recommendations;
2) It prevents the reservoir from spilling from the inflow during the
spring runoff; and
3) It gets the reservoir down to a manageable level at the end of the
year.

As stated in the notice, the timing and duration of the 5,000 cfs will
be more firmed up as we get further into the spring and forecasts become
more accurate. I apologize for not being able to attend due to
previously scheduled meeting in Salt Lake City. I would appreciate it
if you could pass on to the folks attending your meeting that they’re
all invited to attend the next Navajo Reservoir operations meeting to be
held at the Farmington Civic Center on April 24th at 1:00 pm.

Thanks – Pat

BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
NAVAJO RESERVOIR RELEASES
March 6, 2008

SENT VIA FAX AND E-MAIL

Based on its March 1st forecast, the Colorado Basin River Forecast
Center is predicting an inflow of 1,400,000 acre-feet (af) into Navajo
Reservoir this spring/early summer. This is an increase of
approximately 100,000 af over the previous (mid-February) forecast, and
correlates to 181% of the average inflow. As a result, the Bureau of
Reclamation will be increasing the release from Navajo Reservoir to
4,000 cfs on Monday, March 10, 2008. The release will likely remain
at 4,000 cfs until late May, at which time the release will be increased
to 5,000 cfs where it will remain until approximately mid- to late-July.
More information will be provided on the timing and duration of the
5,000 cfs release as we get closer to May.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and
to attempt to meet flow recommendations for the endangered fish in the
San Juan River. If you have any questions, please contact Pat Page at
(970) 385-6560 or e-mail him at ppage@uc.usbr.gov.

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Navajo Reservoir Releases

Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2008
NAVAJO RESERVOIR RELEASES

Mike – as per your phone message, here’s the latest info on the
operating plan for Navajo Reservoir. This planned operation does 3
things:
1) It meets the operating criteria contained in the San Juan Recovery
Program’s flow recommendations;
2) It prevents the reservoir from spilling from the inflow during the
spring runoff; and
3) It gets the reservoir down to a manageable level at the end of the
year.

As stated in the notice, the timing and duration of the 5,000 cfs will
be more firmed up as we get further into the spring and forecasts become
more accurate. I apologize for not being able to attend due to
previously scheduled meeting in Salt Lake City. I would appreciate it
if you could pass on to the folks attending your meeting that they’re
all invited to attend the next Navajo Reservoir operations meeting to be
held at the Farmington Civic Center on April 24th at 1:00 pm.

Thanks – Pat

BUREAU OF RECLAMATION
NAVAJO RESERVOIR RELEASES
March 6, 2008

SENT VIA FAX AND E-MAIL

Based on its March 1st forecast, the Colorado Basin River Forecast
Center is predicting an inflow of 1,400,000 acre-feet (af) into Navajo
Reservoir this spring/early summer. This is an increase of
approximately 100,000 af over the previous (mid-February) forecast, and
correlates to 181% of the average inflow. As a result, the Bureau of
Reclamation will be increasing the release from Navajo Reservoir to
4,000 cfs on Monday, March 10, 2008. The release will likely remain
at 4,000 cfs until late May, at which time the release will be increased
to 5,000 cfs where it will remain until approximately mid- to late-July.
More information will be provided on the timing and duration of the
5,000 cfs release as we get closer to May.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and
to attempt to meet flow recommendations for the endangered fish in the
San Juan River. If you have any questions, please contact Pat Page at
(970) 385-6560 or e-mail him at ppage@uc.usbr.gov.

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Indian tribes exercising water right

By Karl Puckett, USA TODAY

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — For decades, ranchers and farmers across the West have tapped into rivers and streams on or near Indian reservations. Now, as drought conditions plague big parts of the region, they’re concerned their access to those sources could dry up.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court gave tribes the primary rights to streams on their reservations in 1908, until recently, 19 tribes in the West had not exercised those rights. This year, tribes in Montana, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada and California are on the verge of securing their claims.

That could result in less water, or higher water prices, for non-Indian agricultural producers and communities downstream, according to Victor Marshall, an attorney who represents irrigators in New Mexico’s San Juan Valley.

Marshall acknowledges that Indian tribes have more water coming to them. But he argues the amounts they are seeking are more than they can realistically use on the reservation.

Rivers, streams redirected

David Gover, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo., argues that the diversion of Indian waters by non-Indians was “a direct attack on their resources.”

“It’s one of the most important resources we have available for the development of our economies,” Gover said.

Because rainfall is so meager in much of the West, huge distribution systems made up of dams, reservoirs and canals, both privately and publicly constructed, redirect rivers and streams. This allows residents miles away to have water for drinking, fire protection, growing crops and raising livestock.

In most cases, non-Indians pay operation fees for government-owned storage and irrigation systems on reservations, but the water is free.

States and tribes must negotiate how much the tribes have coming before the federal rights are exercised, said Craig Bell, executive director of the Western States Water Council in Salt Lake City. He expects Congress to consider seven or eight settlements in 2008. Congress has ratified 21 Indian water rights deals in the past 25 years, Bell said.

After reaching an agreement with the states, tribes ask Congress for millions of dollars to build reservoirs and pipelines.

Give and take produced satisfactory results to both sides in the largest Indian water rights settlement in history in 2004 in Arizona, according to John Hestand, senior water counsel for the Gila River Indian Community, and John Sullivan of the Salt River Project, which delivers water to the Phoenix area.

The 40-year, $2.4 billion deal involved the Pima, Maricopa and Tohono O’odham tribes and non-Indian users.

The largest bill before Congress this year is the Navajo’s claim to the New Mexico portion of the San Juan River, which would authorize $800 million over 20 years. Votes could come this spring in Senate and House committees.

New Mexico state engineer John D’Antonio said concerns being raised in some quarters about the Navajo bill are overblown. He said the deal would benefit non-Indians, too. “We’ve got to reconcile the sovereignty issue with the state-based rights,” D’Antonio said. The Blackfeet Tribe in Montana, which reached a settlement with Montana in January, will ask Congress for more than $200 million, said Don Wilson, the tribe’s water rights director.

Other cases are pending

Roger Running Crane, vice chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Council, said the settlement will make more water available for irrigation. Reservoirs will be constructed to capture and store more water, he said. “Our water has been leaving the reservation for 90-plus years, ” Running Crane said. “We’ve made everybody rich east of us. Now here’s our chance.”

In other pending cases:

•A bill giving Shoshone and Paiute —who share the Duck Valley Reservation straddling the Idaho-Nevada border — $60 million passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in July 2007. It awaits action by the full Senate.

•A $21 million bill quantifying the water rights of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians in Riverside County, Calif., was introduced in the House in December. A hearing before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Natural Resources is scheduled March 13.

Grain growers in Montana’s largest privately owned irrigation district are worried that the allocation sought by the Blackfeet Tribe will reduce the value of their 80,000 acres of irrigated land, said Bob Sill, who grows barley for beers produced by Anheuser-Busch.

To protect the non-Indians, Montana has agreed to contribute $14.5 million in exchange for the tribe deferring its use of the water for 25 years. To replace what they take, the Blackfeet have agreed to lease water to Sill and the others.

The grain growers want the state and federal governments to pay for the cost of leasing the water, which, Sill says, could double the cost of irrigation.

Concerns over climate change depleting the already scarce supplies are heating up the talks even more.

Researchers are forecasting higher temperatures and drops in precipitation of 10% to 20% by 2050 in the southwestern USA, said John Abatzoglou of the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno.

“It’s made it all the more important to have that supply,” Sill said.

Contributing: Puckett reports for the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune.

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The Great Water Grab

Most people don’t pay attention to the San Juan River, far off in the northwest corner of New Mexico. Some people don’t realize that the San Juan contains 60% of all the surface water in New Mexico – more than the Rio Grande, the Pecos, and the Gila combined. And people don’t realize that Governor Richardson has signed a proposed settlement that would give the Navajo nation 56% of the water in the San Juan River. If Richardson’s deal goes through, it means that the Navajo nation will own one third of all the stream water in New Mexico. This means hard times for everyone else in New Mexico.

This huge deal was negotiated by administration officials in the absence of
constructive comment from the water users that will be directly affected. According to
Governor Richardson and State Engineer John D’Antonio, this deal is supposed to settle Navajo water claims in New Mexico, and provide water through a new pipeline to Gallup and Window Rock (Arizona). But it’s not likely that the pipeline will ever be built, because it will cost more than $1 billion, and the federal government doesn’t have the money.

If the Navajo Nation gets all this water, most of it will be exported to Nevada,
California, or Arizona. The tribe can lease the water to Las Vegas, Phoenix, or San Diego, just by letting it flow down the San Juan into the Colorado River. John D’Antonio claims that the tribe cannot export the water, but he knows better. Water is an article in interstate commerce, so one state cannot prohibit water from being exported to another. New Mexico learned this lesson when it tried to stop the export of water to El Paso.

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Lake Mead Could Be Within a Few Years of Going Dry, Study Finds

February 13, 2008

By FELICITY BARRINGER
Lake Mead, the vast reservoir for the Colorado River water that sustains the fast-growing cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas, could lose water faster than previously thought and run dry within 13 years, according to a new study by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The lake, located in Nevada and Arizona, has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021, the scientists say, if the demand for water remains unchanged and if human-induced climate change follows climate scientists’ moderate forecasts, resulting in a reduction in average river flows.
Demand for Colorado River water already slightly exceeds the average annual supply when high levels of evaporation are taken into account, the researchers, Tim P. Barnett and David W. Pierce, point out. Despite an abundant snowfall in Colorado this year, scientists project that snowpacks and their runoffs will continue to dwindle. If they do, the system for delivering water across the Southwest would become increasingly unstable.
“We were really sort of stunned,” Professor Barnett said in an interview. “We didn’t expect such a big problem basically right on our front doorstep. We thought there’d be more time.”
He added, “You think of what the implications are, and it’s pretty scary.”
The two researchers used data on river flows and reservoir levels from the federal Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that manages the lower Colorado River and the reservoirs of Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Terry Fulp, manager of the bureau office for the lower Colorado River, said he disagreed with the paper’s assumption that global climate models were sensitive or refined enough to forecast regional effects.
Other recent research has shown that the watershed feeding the Colorado River has historically had a tendency to be far drier than it has been in the past century. The new study projects that changes foreseen in a warming world could well help tip the region back into its dry norm. The river, at the same time, is essentially oversubscribed.
Colorado River water was apportioned among seven Western states in 1922 based on river flow levels that have since proved to be unusually high. Last fall, federal officials reached an agreement with California, Arizona and Nevada — the three states that share the lower Colorado River flow — on how to allocate water if the river runs short.
The agreement, including measures to encourage conservation, was expected to forestall litigation among various claimants for the water. It was based on an assumption that the current flow measured at Lee’s Ferry, just south of Lake Powell, could fall short of demand by as much as 500,000 acre-feet a year. The two reservoirs last year were at about 50 percent of capacity.
The Scripps study indicates that the odds are that the shortfall will exceed 500,000 acre-feet a year long before 2026, when the new agreement runs out. The study has been accepted for publication in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Pat Mulroy, the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, said that she had not read the study but that the agreement the states and federal government reached last year included provisions to reconvene if the water losses went beyond what they originally envisioned.
“We have to protect our communities against the worst possibility,” Ms. Mulroy said. “We have 90 percent of our water supply coming from Lake Mead.”
Among the plans being pursued, she said, are conservation (“We’ve started down this journey to make a cultural transformation in this community where water isn’t something they take for granted”) and a design for a project to find a rechargeable groundwater supply unconnected to the Colorado River.
In connection with the agreement, the Bureau of Reclamation released an extensive environmental analysis of water flows and storage in the lower Colorado basin, but the analysis did not take into account the effects of climate change.
In the executive summary of the bureau’s analysis, the authors wrote that global climate change models could not be scaled to local effects. The report used more than 1,200 years of tree-ring data to determine the historical record of river flows.
“Based on the current inability to precisely project future impacts of climate change to runoff throughout the Colorado River basin at the spatial scale needed,” it said, effects of climate change were not considered.
The question of scaling global models to regions and subregions has troubled many climate scientists. Professor Barnett, when asked about the reliability of projecting such models on the Colorado basin, agreed that the basin “is still a relatively small area.”
“There is concern about the representativeness of it,” he said.
But, he added, he and a colleague recently published a separate study that looked at how well climate models predicted Colorado River flows, comparing the modeled results with tree-ring analysis. “The agreement was excellent,” Professor Barnett said. After reviewing the new study quickly, Mr. Fulp, of the Bureau of Reclamation, said, “Our view is that there are better ways of going about those studies that will give us a more precise, better estimate of what these risks would be.”
He added, “I don’t mean to call it a doom-and-gloom scenario, but it’s got a little hint of that.”

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No funding for Navajo-Gallup project in Bush budget

By Kathy Helms

Dine Bureau

The Gallup Independent — 5 February 2008

WINDOW ROCK — President Bush’s fiscal year 2009 budget proposes no funding for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, zero funding for the Jicarilla Apache Rural Water Project, eliminates funding for Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, and slashes $22.5 million from Department of Justice tribal law enforcement programs.

Bush’s budget introduced Monday also seeks a 17 percent cut in funding for the Bureau of Reclamation, including a 72 percent reduction, or decrease of $101 million, for rural water projects and a 70 percent cut, or $17 million less, for water recycling projects. Funding for tribal water and waste water projects would be slashed from $15 million in FY 2008 to $2 million in FY 2009.

“When it comes to water, this bill is not good for New Mexico,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman said Monday. “I’m also very concerned about deep cuts in water initiatives that benefit our state.”

Bingaman introduced legislation for development of the Navajo-Gallup project, which received $246,000 in FY08 funding; the Jicarilla Apache project received $1,476,000.

Meanwhile, Navajo Nation officials have been moving steadily forward on the Navajo-Gallup project. Before hearing the news Monday morning, Stanley Pollack, water rights attorney for the Navajo Nation, said Bingaman’s legal counsel is in the process of redrafting some sections of the Environmental Impact Statement.

“We’re trying to get the EIS finalized and, of course, we’re also trying to push the legislation. There’s no question that it’s a lot of money at a time when Congress’s priorities are elsewhere,” he said.

“It presents some challenges and we think the major reason that there’s been delay in moving the bill has been trying to address the cost issues, trying to find funding mechanisms to pay for it and make it more palatable so that it would have a greater chance of gaining passage.”
Resources Committee Chairman George Arthur said last week that he thought the money angle was moving forward.

“In fact, I’m getting ready to introduce a legislation from Navajo, going through our process, that would pretty much put in place the question of the specific right-of-way for the Navajo-Gallup project. We basically had to move in this direction to keep getting the legislation for the funding request,” he said.

Bingaman said one positive item in the Interior Department budget is a new “Water for America” initiative, which includes slight increases for the National Streamflow Information Program, groundwater resource monitoring activities, water conservation projects, basin-wide watershed studies, and endangered species programs.

The items are similar, although smaller in scope, to initiatives proposed by Bingaman in his SECURE Water Act legislation. However, Bingaman believes that the modest gains made by the Water for America initiative are outweighed by the magnitude of budget cuts proposed for other programs to effectively addresses water needs across the country.

The administration’s indifference to water needs in the West would impose particular hardships on New Mexico and likely lead to more litigation concerning the use and management of the state’s limited water resources, he said.

See Key Articles for more information.

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Western States Agree to Water-Sharing Pact

December 10, 2007

By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9 — Facing the worst drought in a century and the prospect that climate change could yield long-term changes on the Colorado River, the lifeline for several Western states, federal officials have reached a new pact with the states on how to allocate water if the river runs short.
State and federal officials praised the agreement as a landmark akin to the Colorado River Compact of 1922, which first outlined how much water the seven states served by the river — California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming — would receive annually.
The new accord, outlined by federal officials in a telephone news conference Friday, spells out how three downriver states — California, Arizona and Nevada — will share the impact of water shortages. It puts in place new measures to encourage conservation and manage the two primary reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which have gone from nearly full to just about half-empty since 1999.
The accord is expected to forestall litigation that was likely to have arisen as fast-growing states jockey for the best way to keep the water flowing to their residents and businesses in increasingly dry times. It would be in effect through 2026 and could be revised during that time.
Some environmental groups said the pact did not go far enough to encourage conservation and discourage growth. But federal officials said they took the best of several proposals by the states, environmental organizations and others and emphasized the importance of all seven states agreeing with the result.
“I think for the first time in 85 years we are on the same page,” said Herb Guenther, the director of water resources in Arizona, which had initially balked at some terms of the agreement and was threatening legal action over it.
But with water levels in reservoirs dropping, a record eight-year drought, the prospect that climate change could bring more dry spells and new scientific analyses suggesting the West could be drier than has been traditionally believed, the states were pushed to act.
These factors “forced the issue to the head and we decided to do something unique and different,” Mr. Guenther said.
The agreement, the product of two-and-a-half years of negotiation and study, establishes criteria for the Interior Department to declare a shortage on the river, which would occur when the system is unable to produce the 7.5 million acre-feet of water, enough to supply 15 million homes for a year, that the three downriver states are entitled to.
Water deliveries would be decreased based on how far water levels drop in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the river system, predicts about a 5 percent chance of such a shortage being declared by 2010, but it all depends on how much the states are able to conserve and, of course, the weather.
The probability projection “does not imply it can’t happen,” said Terry Fulp, a bureau official involved in managing the river.
Water districts, anticipating an eventual cutback of Colorado River water, have been storing large amounts of water and the accord encourages them to continue to do so.
The pact, which Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is expected to sign Thursday, includes a bundle of agreements with the states. One is approval for water managers in the Las Vegas area, which gets 90 percent of its water from the Colorado, to get a greater share of Lake Mead water in exchange for financing a reservoir in California to capture large amounts of river water destined for Mexico but beyond that country’s entitlement by treaty.
“It’s hugely important for us,” said Scott Huntley, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. “This really does provide the bridge for us to get into the next decade.”
But John Weisheit, conservation director for Living Rivers, a Utah-based environmental group, said the agreement sends the message to the states that growth trumps sensible water management. Mr. Weisheit said the conservation should have been emphasized and the government’s computer modeling was overly optimistic about future water supply.
“There is more water on paper than there actually is on the landscape,” he said. “They are looking at this in a way that will allow more development even though the water is not theoretically there.”

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