Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XVI

April/May 2011

Number III

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Just Say No to the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project By Kay Matthews

Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group is Retiring By Sheri Kotowski, Lead Organizer

Upper Rio Grande Adjudication: Boyd Estate Water Claims


Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit: From Agropastoralism to Sustained Yield Forestry By David Correia

Rumblings on the El Rito Ranger District: More Grazing Reductions By Kay Matthews

The Never Ending Aamodt "Unsettlement" By Kay Matthews

Just Say No to the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project

By Kay Matthews

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS) for the new Nuclear Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on April 22, which was both Good Friday and Earth Day. The irony (and outrage) of this is not lost on those LANL downwind and downstream citizens who demanded that at the very least NNSA complete a new EIS for the Nuclear Facility that is part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project (CMRR). Since the original EIS was released in 2003 the cost of the project has increased from $660 million to $6 billion. The Nuclear Facility will be located in TA-55 next to the existing plutonium pit production facility, connected by an underground tunnel, and will increase plutonium pit production capacity from 20 to 80 pits per year. The other part of the CMRR project, the Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building, has already been completed. NNSA agreed to modify the original EIS with this Draft SEIS because of new information regarding seismic conditions at the site and the infrastructure needed to address these conditions. The Draft SEIS preferred alternative, called the Modified CMRR-NF Alternative, proposes to construct the nuclear facility at TA-55 with design modifications to "address seismic safety, infrastructure enhancements, nuclear safety-based requirements, and sustainable design principles."

Five days after the release of the Draft SEIS a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction filed by the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG) to halt expenditures on the CMRR project until a new environmental impact statement is undertaken was heard in federal court in Albuquerque. LASG claims that contrary to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, the NNSA is acting under the assumption that the building of the CMRR Nuclear Facility is a foregone conclusion, based on the 2003 EIS, which analyzed the Radiological Laboratory/Utility/Office Building and the Nuclear Facility as one project. Los Alamos National Security (LANS), the consortium of public/private entities that manages LANL, has already signed binding contracts with subcontractors for work on the Nuclear Facility. The three alternatives in the Draft EIS are all variations on some kind of Nuclear Facility. The so-called No Action Alternative would construct and operate a new CMRR Nuclear Facility as analyzed in the 2003 EIS. The other two alternatives are modifications of the same facility that take into account the new information regarding the seismic issues at the building site: in the words of counsel for LASG, "digging a hole and digging a deeper hole." In public and written comment many folks demanded that there be a No Action Alternative for not building the CMRR Nuclear Facility.

This option, of course, is what is being obfuscated in the regulatory world of NEPA. Promulgating Environmental Impact Statements is a legal process that fails to get at the heart of an ethical issue: Why is the federal government and LANS insisting that they need the capacity to increase pit production for nuclear bombs to 80? At the legal hearing in Albuquerque an expert witness once again testified that there is verifiable scientific evidence that existing pits have a life span of 100 years and we don't need any increase in production. But the arguments over production capacity and safety of nuclear facilities fails to address the very idea of making bombs. The testimony of the coalition of anti-nuclear groups, pueblo people, and thousands of citizens who have turned out at each and every hearing ever held regarding nuclear work at LANL concludes it is reductive, unnecessary, and financially and morally bankrupt.

The CMRR-Nuclear Facility Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is available on the web at: http://nnsa.energy.gov/nepa/cmrrseis. Due to pressure from 30 non-governmental agencies NNSA expanded the number of public hearings. The first will be held on Monday, May 23 at the Albuquerque Marriott; then Los Alamos on Tuesday, May 24 at the Holiday Inn Express; Española on Wednesday, May 25 at the Santa Claran Hotel; and Santa Fe on Thursday, May 26 at Santa Fe Community College. All the hearings are scheduled from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. The public comment period was extended 15 days until June 28.

Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group is Retiring

By Sheri Kotowski, Lead Organizer

As of the end of May 2011, the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group (EVEMG) will retire from operating as a full time organization. This work has been very demanding on the leadership of EVEMG in both time and energy. And with our limited resources we have struggled unsuccessfully to cover the costs of sustaining our organization as it stands. The door is not going to close completely however, because we will continue as a resource for environmental and safety information about activities that impact communities downwind from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). As long as the nuclear weapons industry is in our back yard, the impacts on public and environmental health and safety of nuclear weapons production at LANL will require attention and voices from downwind communities.

EVEMG began in the winter of 2002 with a small group of people in the Rio Embudo Watershed asking questions about exposure to radiation and toxins during the Cerro Grande Fire of 2000. This fire burned over 45,000 acres of land adjacent to the town of Los Alamos and 7,500 acres of LANL site property. One could clearly see that the 50-mile an hour spring winds brought smoke directly into our agricultural valleys where the plume rained ash and settled down for ten consecutive days. During the fire there were no public health alerts or emergency instructions. The questions we asked after the fire, "What and how much dangerous or radioactive materials were we exposed to by the smoke of the fire?" went unanswered by LANL because there was no downwind regional data collected during the fire. We did not hear news about health alerts or emergency plans because there were none. LANL did not have a plan for emergencies in regional areas. There was also no base line data available for comparison before and after the fire. Neither was there base line data available that measured radiation from before the Manhattan Project began splitting the atom to make weapons in 1943.

EVEMG was formed because of two basic requirements for our downwind communities. The first was our right to know how nuclear weapons research and development at LANL affects and will affect the land, water, and air of our traditional land-based communities. The second was to understand what kind of consideration is given to public safety and security during a potentially life damaging and threatening emergency at LANL.

Our first goal in 2003 was to establish an independent air monitoring system in order to build a base line of airborne radiation that our communities are exposed to on a daily basis. We began with five sites at varying elevations in a sixty-mile circuit around the watershed. We use a very simple and accurate system of measuring penetrating gamma radiation called "electrets". Our stations are located on Black Mesa, in Dixon, Ojo Sarco, Llano de la Yegua, and Picuris Pueblo. In 2008 we added the El Valle station. All of our stations continue to collect data. Concurrently we proposed to LANL that it be included in a regional monitoring system called AIRNET. AIRNET collects outdoor particulate (dust). The samples of dust are analyzed for isotopic uranium, isotopic plutonium, americium, tritium, and beryllium; all radioactive by-products of nuclear weapons research, development, and production. AIRNET also measures levels of alpha and beta radiation in the dust samples. We have collected samples at AIRNET St. 84 since 2003, located at Picuris Pueblo. At Governor Gerald Nailor's request, Picuris Pueblo Environment Department will continue to collect samples. Data can be found on the Internet at http://www.lanl.gov/environment/air/airnet/conc_active.shtml.

Beginning in 2005, EVEMG worked with the New Mexico Environment Department LANL Department of Energy Oversight Bureau (NMED Oversight) to develop and implement five sampling projects that measured radioactivity in soils, produce, water, and air. Each project dovetailed into the next as the data found contamination from the nuclear weapons industry. We analyzed farm soil, undisturbed soil, and alluvial soils for heavy metals and radionuclides in various forms. We measured radiation and radionuclides in surface water and groundwater. Through produce sampling we came to understand pathways of exposure and transportation of contamination. We found americium in plums in Llano de la Yegua and exceptional levels of cesium, strontium, and plutonium at the top of the watershed at Trampas Lake. In an independent sampling project with the Government Accountability Project, we found strontium in the dust collected from a residence in Llano. While we were all shocked and angry by this sobering news, we were also motivated to push harder towards a more healthy and sustainable mission for the lab at Los Alamos. This new direction does not destroy the land and waste precious resources by building more bombs; it is one that restores the land and employs people to do work their children will be proud of.

While we have been able to collect very specific data regarding the Embudo Valley Watershed, we have also come to learn of much broader contamination. Much of the land that was burned by the Cerro Grande Fire at LANL was, and remains, contaminated by open

burning and open detonation. Many thousands of tons of depleted uranium, uranium, heavy metals, and toxic high explosives continue to be exploded on a weekly basis into the open air. There is a blanket of radioactive and chemically toxic pollution covering the planet from the carelessness of this industry. This pollution includes the most lethal substance on the planet, plutonium, which does not exist in nature. This environmental contamination came with the splitting of the atom and the first explosion of a nuclear weapon in 1945 at the Trinity test site in central New Mexico. The concentrated plume of that explosion fell over much of New Mexico before dissipating over the Atlantic Ocean.

But most important, we have learned that communities working together can accomplish monumental tasks. Regional sampling with NMED Oversight was accomplished through the persistence of our communities' need to know. Through EVEMG's efforts and the community support behind the Emergency Preparedness Forum in 2004 we were instrumental in organizing the only Federal Emergency Management Agency emergency preparedness exercises taking place in 2008 involving federal, tribal, state, county and non-governmental organizations in the country. In 2007 our communities demanded that a local hearing on expanded operations at LANL be added for downwinders, which took place in Española. We were overwhelmed by how many of you from the watershed came to oppose "expanded operations" because you all wanted a brighter future. You have come to forums and meetings about sampling projects, you have signed countless post cards and letters opposing the various incarnations of "bomb factories", you have written personal stories, and attended public comment trainings and meeting after meeting.

It has truly been a labor of love to serve the community. I feel especially enriched by the challenge I had to educate myself and the opportunity to pass this knowledge on to those who care deeply about their land and their children's future. Through our work together we have raised consciousness about the wasteful, dangerous, and violent activities perpetuated by the nuclear weapons industry at LANL. We have also made a difference for the whole world. The voice of the Rio Embudo Watershed has been heard, and I hope that folks will continue to be outspoken about the need to clean-up, not build-up.

All of the data collected by EVEMG will soon be available in hard copy at the Embudo Valley Community Library. This documentation provides a baseline for heavy metals, radionuclides, and radiation for the Rio Embudo Watershed. Other documents pertinent to environmental issues are also available. Also, please feel free to contact me at serit@cybermesa.com.

Upper Rio Grande Adjudication: Boyd Estate Water Claims

Scott Boyd, the administrator of the Estate of Nathan Boyd in the Lower Rio Grande Adjudication, submitted the estate's water rights claims to the court in March. As you will recall, in February the court approved a new stream system issue SS 105 to address these claims as an inter se proceeding (see February/March 2011 La Jicarita News). It is Scott Boyd's belief that his great-grandfather's Rio Grande Dam & Irrigation Company was illegally seized by the federal government under a bogus War Powers Act, declaring that the Rio Grande was a "navigable river" and canceling the company's right of way. Consequently, Boyd believes that those water rights currently being administered by the Office of the State Engineer in the Elephant Butte Irrigation District are fraudulent. Scott Boy's affidavit before the court includes four water rights claims. At the last scheduling conference in April the court told Boyd he must be represented by a New Mexico licensed attorney but was given additional time to respond to dispositive (dismissive) motions.

First Water Right Claim

This claims "all outstanding shares of the Rio Grande Dam and Irrigation Company (RGD&IC) incorporated in 1893 by the people of the Mesilla Valley and below in El Paso." These rights have priority dates beginning in 1894 and 1897 and were appropriated through corporate irrigation laws in the Territory of New Mexico. The RGD&IC filed the required federal rights-of-way and easement rights to build the Elephant Butte and Caballo Dams and to obstruct the Rio Grande just below Elephant Butte under the Territorial Acts of October 2, 1888 and August 30, 1890. The amount of water rights claimed by the RGD&IC is up to a total of 506,720 acre feet with a priority date of 1894 to serve the farmers and all other water users in the Lower Rio Grande (Rincon, Hatch, Mesilla and El Paso valleys). "Any and all project return flows, and or sub-surface water hydrologically connected, along with all the evaporation projects rights are a beneficial use claimed under the RGD&IC project rights."

Second Water Right Claim

This claim is derived through contracts made between the RGD&IC and pre-existing community ditches to deliver farmers water though the Fort Seldon/Leasburg canal and diversion and to build a storage reservoir at Elephant Butte. The RGD&IC contracted with the Doña Ana, Mesilla, and Las Cruces community ditches to deliver their pre-existing water rights. As the company was tied up in litigation for decades by the U.S. government the landowners continued to use the RGD&IC diversion works to deliver water. "Once there is a determination as to the extent of the surface claims of the RGD&IC and community ditches, the court will then need to adjudicate what hydrological and legal connection, if there is any, to the prebasin water right claims to the sub-surface wells."

Third Water Right Claim

This claim is "derived from the diversion works at Fort Seldon/Leasburg through contracts to deliver a new water right to irrigate lands that were before without water. These water rights have a priority date of 1897." Here again, even though the RGD&IC was tied up in litigation, farmers continued to use the diversion at Fort Seldon to deliver water. According to Boyd's affidavit, RGD&IC's works led the way for the opening up of over 10,000 additional acres of newly irrigated farm land in Doña Ana County, consisting of approximately 25,000 to 35,000 acre feet of new water rights.

Fourth Water Right Claim

This water right claim was appropriated through a diversion heading developed by the RGD&IC and is referred to as the West Side diversion and canal located at the junction of the Rio Percha and the Rio Grande. The West Side canal was in the process of being constructed by the RGD&IC for the purpose of delivering and selling water to the landowners in the Rincon/Hatch valleys when the federal government intervened. Boyd claims that these landowners can also claim continual beneficial use, with a priority date of 1894. The Boyd Estate reserves the right to determine the exact amount of project water in the Rincon/Hatch valleys under continuing discovery.

Fifth Water Right Claim

This claim is derived from works built by RGD&IC on the Santa Tomas Diversion, which is today the location of the West Side Canal in the Lower Mesilla Valley. This one and one half miles of canal opened up more than 500 acres of new irrigated farmland. The exact quantities of water rights claimed from this diversion is to be determined from further discovery.

Sixth Water Right Claim

"The Boyd Estate further reserves the right to claim other rights that may become evident through information revealed during discovery and litigation of this matter."








Clean Water Act Lawsuit Settled

After two years of negotiations, a settlement was reached on April 27, 2011 between a coalition of community groups and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) over the Lab's violations of the Clean Water Act. LANL will be required to capture and eliminate toxic run-off of contaminated stormwater from over 400 waste dump sites that have historically discharged pollutants into the Rio Grande. Together with a negotiated individual stormwater discharge permit that was issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in November of 2010, this settlement also provides more public participation and input providing access to waste dump sites, technical meetings with LANL, and the opportunity to review and comment on all decisions made under the new permit. The agreement also provides funding for the community groups to hire experts and obtain technical support to help facilitate their participation in the permitting process.

The coalition of community groups that filed the lawsuit include Amigos Bravos, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group, New Mexico Acequia Association, Don Gabino Andrade Community Acequia Association, Partnership for Earth Spirituality, Rio Grande Restoration, Southwest Organizing Project, Tewa Women United, and Gilbert and Kathy Sanchez.

It is important to recognize the burden that is placed on groups like these to bring citizen lawsuits against federal and corporate behemoths like LANL and the Department of Energy. Financially, many of these non-profit groups are minimally funded by membership fees and foundation grants; they are typically understaffed and dependent on volunteer boards of directors to address issues of environmental health and social justice; and in the case of the Western Environmental Law Center, which represented the plaintiffs, dependent upon winning the lawsuit or settlement agreements to have their fees paid. The financial part of the settlement, to help pay these groups to make sure LANL does the work it should have been doing in the first place, should have been many times over what was finally agreed upon. It's significantly less than the money that is squandered on a daily basis at LANL through mismanagement and corruption. So kudos to these folks for their hard work, tenacity, and commitment to New Mexico communities.


La Jicarita News will continue publication every two months throughout the summer and fall.


Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit: From Agropastoralism to Sustained Yield Forestry

By David Correia

Editor's Note: Back in 2005 we ran an article by David Correia that we had excerpted from previous articles he wrote about the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit. I've included part of that article below, which provides necessary background to the controversy currently taking place on the El Rio Ranger District.


In 1947, the El Rito District Ranger in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico declared that forest rangelands were severely overgrazed. This determination led to a series of stock-reduction programs in the district that had both immediate and long term consequences for local permittees. Unlike the large, commercial cattle operations that dominated cattle production on western ranges in the 1940s, local permittees in El Rito engaged in small scale goat, sheep and cattle herding on the mountain rangelands of the El Rito District, a practice begun with the arrival of Spanish settlers in the sixteenth century. Throughout New Spain, settlers relied on an agropastoral subsistence strategy characterized by the integration of small household agricultural fields irrigated by a system of community-managed acequias, or gravity-fed irrigation ditches, along with the grazing of livestock on upland rangelands. The semi-arid conditions in northern New Mexico made dry-land farming impossible. As a result, uplands managed collectively by villages served as important rangelands for livestock, as well as for collecting fuelwood and building materials and hunting. Beginning with the United States' control of the region in 1848, a series of grazing restrictions eroded local access to, and control of, critical upland resources. This led to a process of land and water dispossession for local subsistence ranchers.

In 1935, 210 El Rito households farmed, on average, eight irrigated acres each, with one landowner irrigating 71 acres. While three families owned large herds, grazing a combined total of 3,260 sheep, and one family maintained 300 goats, most households maintained fewer than seven animals. Although the herds were small, federal land managers in the Carson National Forest began a process of grazing reductions in 1948, based on their 1947 case study that concluded that livestock had "caused surrounding national forest ranges to become depleted of vegetative cover to such an extent that a reduction in permitted grazing use is necessary." The claims of overgrazed and depleted ranges likely emerged from a combination of management decisions related to regional drought conditions. Throughout New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona, a severe drought beginning in 1943 and lasting into the late 1950s led to severe rangeland degradation on many Forest Service ranges. Despite significant interregional variation, many rangers saw the Southwest as uniformly degraded. Lower stocking rates and average to better-than-average precipitation patterns in El Rito suggest that local foresters misidentified local ranges as depleted.

The El Rito District's 1947 claim of overgrazing initiated a district-wide case study regarding the problem of locally degraded ranges. The resulting report, delivered to Carson Forest Supervisor L. F. Cottam in March of 1947, focused solely on the poverty of local permittees. No fieldwork was conducted regarding ecological conditions, and no explanation was offered as to how the district determined that ranges were overgrazed. In early 1948, the Forest Service imposed grazing reductions on all 141 smallholder Hispano grazing permittees. The grazing restrictions and reductions on federal lands in northern New Mexico were based on an understanding of ecosystem functioning that assumed pastoralist production to be lacking key practices necessary to maintain ecosystem equilibrium. Such a view made it possible to demonstrate that rangeland was overgrazed through an economic analysis of the region. In El Rito, rangers assumed that agropastoralism was the cause of significant and persistent poverty. This view, however, ignored the significant differences between the environmental and economic impacts of commercial ranching and pastoralist production as practiced in northern New Mexico.

Although it seems unlikely that pastoralist livestock practices alone, if at all, were responsible for depleted ranges, El Rito District rangers reduced the number of permits available for locally owned cattle at the same time as they increased access to timber by outside commercial timber operators. For the next twenty years, district rangers continued to reduce grazing permits in the district while increasing timber harvesting. The implementation of this policy coincided with the Forest Service post World War II effort to expand timber production by tying district budgets to timber output. It therefore served the interests of the Forest Service at the expense of the local population.

The Forest Service rationalized this decision by claiming that wage labor generated by corporate logging would be an improvement over a small-scale, village-based, agropastoral subsistence economy it claimed was the cause of poverty and ecological degradation. Therefore, in 1948 it created the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit (VFSYU) on the El Rito District. Fifty-six years later, it's the only sustained yield unit still active in the American Southwest, and has accomplished none of the goals of increased livelihoods and ecological protection described in its legislation.

Rumblings on the El Rito Ranger District: More Grazing Reductions

By Kay Matthews

This is a continuation of the previous article.

Fast forward to 2010. The El Rito Ranger District released the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing allotments on the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit. The three alternatives called for: 1) no action; 2) maintaining the permits as is, with minor adjustments; and 3) an 18 percent reduction in the number of livestock over the next five years to pre-1980 grazing levels. The Proposed Action was number 2, essentially maintaining the status quo of the grazing permits. But in District Ranger Diana Trujillo's Decision Notice, which was signed on the same day the EA was released, September 30, 2010, she rejected the proposed action, calling it "unsustainable", and instead chose Alternative 3, which reduces the grazing permits by 18 percent.

Members of the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing associations claim that Trujillo's rejection of the Proposed Action was in retaliation for the fact that their members signed a petition in late February 2010 seeking to have her transferred out of the El Rito Ranger District "for being uncooperative, unresponsive, and callous in carrying out the mission of the Forest Service as it relates to working with local folks in maintaining our traditions, local culture and customs."

There is a history of contention between Trujillo and the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa permittees since she first came to the district. In this latest petition the permittees specifically complained that Trujillo demanded that they build a fence between the allotments, when it is the Forest Service's responsibility, not the permittees, to build fences (which the permittees must maintain). They also complained that the Forest Service had failed to significantly reduce the number of wild horses on the district, as stipulated in the wild hourse management plan. The petition was submitted to District Ranger Trujillo and Regional Forester Corbin Newman. The permittees received no response regarding their complaint.

Española attorney Ted Trujillo, representing the grazing associations and Rio Arriba County, appealed Trujillo's decision on November 29, 2010, which the Carson National Forest Supervisor denied. The ranchers then contacted their congressional delegation with their concerns, and in a letter to Regional Forester Newman, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan expressed not only the concerns of the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing associations (and several other associations) but in general that there has been a steady decline in the number of grazing permits issued in both the Carson and Santa Fe national forests and shortened grazing seasons. He specifically asked that the Regional Forester stay the proposed 18 percent reduction and enter into a mediation process with the stockmen.

In the letter that Regional Forester Newman wrote back to Representative Lujan he defended Forest Service grazing policies in general, stating that it is incumbent on the part of the permittees to see that good management practices are employed on the allotments, and if not, reductions in livestock are warranted. He also claimed that livestock on the Santa Fe and Carson national forests has actually increased in number since 1951 to 2010.

With regard to the release of the EA, the permittees believe that Newman's defense of District Ranger Trujillo's action " has been less than straightforward with you [Congressman Lujan]". The process he described that allowed Trujillo to make her decision, a "review or scoping period," is what takes place during the period before the release of a EA or in a draft EA that goes out for public review and comment. He claimed that because of additional information that came in during "the review or scoping period" Trujillo chose Alternative 3 instead of Alternative 2, the "Proposed Action." But the document that Trujillo changed was the final EA, which was not sent out for any further review or comment because, as I pointed out above, she signed the Decision Notice on the same day the EA was published.

The Alamosa and Jarita Mesa grazing associations have consulted with several attorneys about possible relief actions they might take to challenge District Ranger Trujillo's Record of Decision. Longtime northern New Mexico attorney Richard Rosenstock, who defended community foresters in their battles with the Forest Service and environmentalists over access to the Vallecitos Federal Sustained Yield Unit, is looking into whether the First Amendment rights of the permittees have been abrogated by a retaliatory action on Trujillo's part. Ted Trujillo and Simeon Herskovits, an attorney with Advocates for Community and Environment, are looking into whether there were procedural improprieties with regard to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which would result in a challenge of the EA and Record of Decision. La Jicarita News will continue to monitor this case.

The Never Ending Aamodt "Unsettlement"

By Kay Matthews

A March Albuquerque Journal North article revealed that the state of New Mexico "is not on track" to meet its fiduciary responsibility in the settlement of the Navajo, Aamodt, and Abeyta water rights settlements. While Congress approved these, and two other settlements in 2010, according to the Journal North article New Mexico has set aside only one-tenth of the funding required for the purchase of water rights and development of infrastructure associated with the settlements, worth over a billion dollars of federal money for the state.

For the folks still opposed to the terms of the Aamodt settlement (and there are others opposed to both the Abeyta and Navajo settlements)) this may not be such a bad situation. But to complicate matters even further, the federal government has declared the terms of the settlements are unacceptable and that they are inconsistent with the legislation that was written for implementation. So now an Implementation Committee, comprised of five federal agencies, is meeting to revise the agreements.

In the case of the Aamodt, the folks of the Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance are asking, how can this be? How can a settlement agreement that was negotiated by the parties involved in the adjudication, including representatives of the pertinent federal agencies (Department of Justice, Department of the Interior) be rewritten after the fact by lawyers and bureaucrats to fit legislation? There was plenty of complaining at the time that many of those who should have been at the negotiating table were left out, so you can imagine how they feel now when it's "deja vu all over again." The answer is that the settlement agreements for the Aamodt, Abeyta, Navajo, and several other Colorado adjudications that Congress approved in December of 2010 and appropriated billions of dollars to implement, were signed only by local governmental agencies, not the Department of the Interior, and now the settlements are being altered to fit the legislation that has been written by the powers that be in Washington. Concurrently, the Cost Sharing and System Integration Agreement must also be revised.

The Implementation Committee for the Aamodt has met for the last three months with the parties that negotiated the first 2006 settlement agreement but without any press coverage (see Orlando Romero's column in the Sunday, May 2 Santa Fe New Mexican). At the May 9 meeting Utton passed out copies of the changes made thus far to the settlement (available on the Santa Fe County website). They include the deletion of what is called the Red Pipeline to the Pojoaque Pueblo golf course, leaving the Potable Pipeline to the pueblo, and the amount of water rights that will be delivered to the pueblos and non-pueblo parties in the adjudication. According to Utton, there were also water right negotiations that took place after the settlement agreement was signed that have changed the amounts and kinds of rights slated for its implementation. Negotiations for San Juan Chama water that was previously reserved for Cochiti Reservoir now stands at 800 afy, and 300 afy was taken from Taos Pueblo in the Abeyta settlement. The total delivery to the pueblos, as stated in the revised settlement, is "at least 2,381 afy" (this reflects conveyance loss from the original 2,500 afy), and the delivery to the non-pueblos has been reduced from 750 afy to 611 afy. I attended the May 9 session for a couple of hours in the morning and it was painful to see the tortuously slow process required to make these revisions (folks opposed to the settlement can get some satisfaction that it was obviously painful for the participants &endash; federal and pueblo lawyers lined up against non-pueblo and local government lawyers &endash; as well). A lot of time was spent that morning discussing what kind of language should be included in the settlement if the county or the feds are unable to transfer the Top of the World (TOW) water rights necessary to meet the terms of the agreement.

That's the elephant always present in the room. Everyone is gearing up to protest the application by Santa Fe County and the Department of Interior to transfer the 1,711 acre feet of Top of the World water rights in northern Taos County. Two-thirds of these rights are slated for the pueblos in the adjudication &endash; Pojoaque, Tesuque, Nambe, and San Ildefonso &endash; while 611 afy are earmarked for the non-pueblo water delivery system. Two-thirds of the 1,711 afy is currently being leased to the town of Questa, and the other third is being used to farm at the TOW location.

Several other issues have to be resolved as well. One is who will serve on the Water Authority Board, comprised of representatives from the four pueblos and Santa Fe County, that will administer the water delivery systems? Two, what size non-pueblo delivery system will the county build? The settlement terms commit the county to deliver 611 afy for landowners without wells or water rights who want to hook up to the water delivery system and up to 750 afy for those who retire their wells and dedicate that water to the system, but no decision has been made as to how big or how small the system will be. Check the Santa Fe County website for the schedule of future meetings.

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