Monday, August 8, 2011

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AG Sues to Protect New Mexico Water
(SANTA FE)---The Office of the New Mexico Attorney General Gary King today filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) asking the court for declaratory action and injunctive relief to protect water that lawfully belongs to New Mexico. According to Attorney General King, “The lawsuit is necessary to prevent the BOR from unilaterally releasing New Mexico’s water stored in Elephant Butte Reservoir for delivery to Texas.” In late July 2011, the BOR unilaterally reclassified 65,000 acre feet of New Mexico water on its accounting sheets so that that water could be made available for release to Texas. The position of the New Mexico Attorney General is that such action is illegal since the water was stored for the benefit of New Mexico, as verified by the Rio Grande Compact Commission in their review of Rio Grande operations and annual accounting. The primary purpose of the Rio Grande Compact Commission is to assure compliance with the Rio Grande Compact (1938), which provides an equitable allocation system for this shared interstate river. The three members of the Commission are the lead water officials that represent their respective States. “Protecting New Mexico’s water is critical and while we continue to work cooperatively through the Rio Grande Compact Commission and seek resolution with federal officials, the recent actions of the BOR reflect a unilateral federal change in the Rio Grande Compact accounting procedures used by all three signatory states to the Compact (Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas) to release New Mexico’s water for delivery to the El Paso County Water Improvement District (EPCWID) in Texas, without New Mexico’s approval,” says AG King. “The BOR is seeking to ‘reclassify’ New Mexico’s water that is lawfully stored and classified as New Mexico Credit Water, to a different designation so that it can be released to Texas. This action is

inappropriate and must not be allowed. I believe it is only prudent to file this lawsuit to protect New Mexico’s water.” In the lower Rio Grande region the BOR administers the Rio Grande Project, which is used to allocate water between Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) in New Mexico, EPCWID in Texas, and to the Republic of Mexico in compliance with an international treaty. Historic Project operations divided the water on a prorated basis that was directly indexed to the amount of irrigated farmland in the two national irrigation districts. A formal survey conducted by the federal government indicated approximately 88,000 acres were irrigated by EBID, or 57% of the total amount of irrigated lands. The remaining 67,000 acres (or 43%) were irrigated within the EPCWID. The historic allocation of usable project water in Rio Grande Project storage vessels, Elephant Butte and Caballo Reservoirs, was allocated to the two districts using this 57/43 ratio. In 2008 a new Operating Agreement was adopted and implemented that changed the method of allocation of Rio Grande Project waters. The Attorney General’s Office is concerned that this new operational protocol results in a dramatic shift in the net allocation of project water supplies in the ratio of 38% to EBID and 62% to EPCWID, a reversal of historic allocation percentages. The farmers served by EBID have seen their share of water decrease significantly during the past three years while the amount of land they seek to irrigate has remained unchanged. “The Rio Grande is a shared asset of many people in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. It is imperative that every water user receive the amount to which they are entitled under law. My office will continue to work to resolve New Mexico’s short term and long term water issues to make certain that New Mexico water is protected and that our water users receive their fair share,” adds Attorney General King.

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