Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the

Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo

Volume I

April 1996

Number IV


Current Issue




About Us




Peñasco Water Rights Fair

Forest Guardians Manages Riparian Lands on Rio Embudo Canyon

BLM Plans Timber Treatment on Lands North of Peñasco

What's Happening in the Rest of New Mexico



Adjudicación de Agua Por Mark Schiller, tradució por Gladys Martinez

Bureau of Land Management Studying the Rio Embudo for Wild and Scenic Eligibility By Kay Matthews

Peñasco Water Rights Fair

A conference on acequia and water rights history in northern New Mexico; water adjudication; water conservation and banking; and regional water planning. There will be speakers, information booths, food, and live entertainment by Cipriano Vigil and the Peñasco High School Mariachi Band.

Time: Saturday, April 27, 12:00 p.m.to 5:00 p.m.

Place: Peñasco High School

Speaking Schedule

12:00: Introduction by Ron Martinez, La Jicarita Enterprise Community

12:15: Hilario Romero, Northern New Mexico Community College&emdash;history of acequias and water rights

1:00: David Benevides, Northern New Mexico Legal Services&emdash;preparing for water adjudication

2:15: Palemon Martinez, New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission

2:45: William Turner, University of New Mexico water specialist&emdash;water adjudication in the village of Vallecitos

3:30: Michael Martinez, New Mexico Office of the State Engineer&emdash;water adjudication requirements

4:00: Geoff Bryce, Taos Valley Acequia Association&emdash;water conservation, or water banking

4:30: Carlos Miera, Taos County Planning Director&emdash;Taos County Regional Water Plan

Sponsored by La Jicarita Enterprise Community; Taos County Regional Water Plan Task Force; Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition; AmeriCorps

For additional information call La Jicarita Enterprise Community at 1-800 365-0074 or Beverly Armijo, Taos County, 751-1543

Forest Guardians Manages Riparian Lands on Rio Embudo Canyon

In February of 1995 Forest Guardians, an environmental organization in Santa Fe, acquired a conservation lease on 640 acres of land in Embudo Canyon along the Rio Embudo. These are state lands that are managed to generate revenue for the state's public schools. Previously they had been leased for cattle grazing, but by law the state land office is required to accept the highest bid from any organization. Forest Guardians, whose objective is to "protect endangered streamside woodlands and other ecologically critical wetland areas," plans to keep cattle off the section along the Rio Embudo and three other parcels just to the north, including the headwaters of the Agua Caliente. These parcels are contiguous to a large area governed by the Bureau of Land Management, creating 20,000 acres of ungrazed land.

John Horning of Forest Guardians says his organization "plans to involve local school groups in conducting biological inventories of each of the parcels. Restoration and education efforts will also help local communities understand and appreciate the importance of sanctuaries for wildlife." He added that because the former leasee of these Embudo parcels vacated them back in the late 1980s, the bid by Forest Guardians generated little controversy, unlike some of their other bids around the state (filed later, in September of 1995). Several of these bids were challenged by ranchers under a "preferential rights" system, and the State Land Commissioner decided to invalidate Forest Guardians' bids. Forest Guardians is currently appealing the Commissioner's decision. This decision did not affect the lease of the Embudo lands, however. If you would like more information about this leasing system you may contact John Horning at Forest Guardians, 612 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, NM, 87501, 988-9126.

BLM Plans Timber Treatment on Lands North of Peñasco

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently completed an Environmental Analysis (EA) for the Lumbre Forest Test Project, a 7,000-acre sub-watershed of the Rio Embudo watershed. The purpose of the project is to establish 10 one-acre test plots where ponderosa pine will be treated to create a more healthy, diverse forest. According to the EA, because of excessive logging, heavy livestock grazing, and fire suppression, these lands, once dominated by the park-like conditions of ponderosa pine, now support excessive ponderosa pine density that has resulted in soil loss due to lack of grasslands and an overabundance of piñon/juniper.

Chainsaws and a track-dozer will be used to thin both ponderosa pine and piñon/juniper on the test plots. This will allow the remaining pine to grow and reseed, reducing the potential for catastrophic fire and insect infestation. Slash will be scattered by hand or piled in gullies as an erosion control device. Some of the larger piñon/juniper can be made available for firewood. Phase II of the proposed project requires a prescribed burn of the test plots within four to six years of the mechanical treatment.

The Taos Resource Management Plan stipulates that "no treatments will occur in areas with potential or known rare, endemic, Threatened or Endangered species habitat, riparian areas, or within one-quarter mile of any live stream or spring." The EA is in the final stages of preparation, and slated for signing by the end of April. If you have any questions concerning the project, you may write Sam DesGeorges at the Taos BLM office, 226 Cruz Alta, Taos, NM 87571, or call him at 758-8851.

What's Happening in the Rest of New Mexico

Several weeks ago Congressman Bill Richardson's office announced that Duke City Lumber had turned over its Vallecitos Lumber Mill to La Herencia del Norteños Unidos, a coalition of groups that includes La Madera Co-op, the rural electric co-op, cattlemen's associations, La Compania de Ocho, and Las Comunidades, a recently organized community association. The mill is part of the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit, and has been closed since January because of a lack of timber. There have been periodic shut-downs in previous years as well.

While members of La Herencia gave final approval to the transfer agreement on April 11, the group doesn't know who will actually operate the mill once it becomes the owner. Both Las Comunidades and La Compania Ocho have expressed interest in running the mill. As a matter of fact, La Compania Ocho had previously negotiated will Duke City for transfer of the mill to La Compania, under the auspices of the Vallecitos Association. La Jicarita called Antonio DeVargas, one of the founding members of La Compania, for his opinion of the transfer to La Herencia. He was not happy with the deal.

"The Vallecitos mill should have unquestionably gone to the Vallecitos Association, which represents the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit. And the timber available to the mill must be logged in the Vallecitos Unit. No outside loggers can come in and log in the Vallecitos." He went on to explain that because of La Compania's recent settlement with the Forest Service, guaranteeing La Compania 75% and 80% of the next two logging units in the Vallecitos Unit, his company is the only one that can provide the mill with timber. If the Vallecitos Association owned the mill, La Compania would be able to log and mill the timber and keep it all within the Unit. Under La Herencia ownership, according to DeVargas, La Compania would have to lease the mill at fair market value.

DeVargas further claimed that La Compania was not involved in the final negotiations between Duke City, Richardson's office, and La Herencia, and that some of the other member groups were opposed to the transfer of the mill to La Herencia as well. DeVargas claims that Las Comunidades, the other group that has expressed interest in operating the mill, will "kill themselves" if they try and run the mill because they have neither the timber nor the expertise.

La Jicarita was unable to contact Levi Sanchez, president of La Herencia del Norteños Unidos for his response to DeVargas's allegations, but will try to speak with him, as well as a representative from Las Comu-nidades, for the next issue.


The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition organized in 1994 to address issues that threaten the health and vitality of our Jicarita watershed. Our rivers and their tributaries are the arteries of our community, of course, sustaining all the resources that comprise our unique environment. These arteries are in danger of being clogged with the pollution of timbering, mining, automobile exhaust, and untreated human waste. Their very existence is threatened by an overpopulated society that is becoming increasingly urbanized and industrialized.

The poet Gary Snyder said, "I believe that the most radical action we can take now is to organize locally, watershed by watershed. The people who live in a place must inform themselves and become guardians of their place." The members of the coalition have taken this advice to heart, as have many other people in other New Mexico communities&emdash;in the Pecos river valley, in Arroyo Hondo and Valdez, in Questa, and in southern New Mexico's Mesilla Valley. This coming Saturday's water fair demonstrates that there is a great deal going on in New Mexico, at many different levels, to insure that both the quantity and quality of our most precious resource is protected.

One of the most comprehensive attempts to address water issues is Regional Water Planning, overseen by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. The Commission has divided the state into regions that are self-defined by hydrological and political common interests. These regions then draft a water assessment, which 1) inventories the quantity and quality of water resources; 2) compiles population projections and other water resource demands; and 3) determines the manner in which water requirements for the projected demands might be met with management and conservation of water supplies available to the region under existing rights, water supplies, interstate agreements, and court decrees.

On the state level, the Office of the State Engineer has been involved in the adjudication process for many years. Some of our neighboring communities are now being adjudicated. While no one seems to know exactly when the State Engineer will begin the process in the Peñasco area, everyone would do well to inform themselves as to what adjudication entails and how they can best protect their water rights. This applies to not only irrigation rights but to domestic water rights as well. The State Engineer will adjudicate both. In Taos Valley, the area's various acequia associations banded together to form the Taos Valley Acequia Association, with a staff of experienced water specialists to help guide the water users through the long and difficult process of adjudication. Perhaps we should start thinking about the possibility of uniting both the acequia associations and the domestic water associations here in the Peñasco area.

During these days of early spring, as all our communities get together to clean and maintain the acequias, the importance of preserving our area's water resources becomes foremost in our minds. There are many of us here struggling to preserve an agricultural way of life amidst 20th century economic pressures that sometimes force local residents to leave home or commute to jobs in town. But for everyone who leaves (and few of them ever sell their land, for they plan to return someday), those who stay continue to maintain cultural traditions, their land and their way of life, which define who they are. At whatever level you can participate in that struggle&emdash;irrigating your hay field or orchard, cleaning your acequia, or organizing with your neighbors to create more efficient use of your water&emdash;your efforts will be an integral part of a preservation movement that will hopefully prevail.


The Peñasco Areas Communities Association (PACA) is soliciting input from the community regarding the next phase of land use planning. PACA is currently drafting a list of "goals and objectives," and anyone who has suggestions or comments about what should be included in this list, such as what kinds of regulations and restrictions are desireable, can send them to PACA at P. O. Box 1216, Vadito, NM, 87579, or leave them in the suggestion boxes at the Rio Grande Cafe or at Bear Paw Pizza.

The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition was able to raise the money to match a foundation grant because of generous donations from several organizations and members of the community. Thanks to the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club, and to the individuals who donated to the coalition. We will make every attempt to use the money wisely and well.

Adjudicación de Agua

Por Mark Schiller, tradució por Gladys Martinez

Editor's note: La Jicarita originally published this article in its February issue. We received several requests to rerun it in Spanish, and Gladys Martinez, the Peñasco High School Spanish teacher, generously agreed to do the translation. Muchas gracias, Señora Martinez.

Los derechos para adjudicar el agua es el proceso por el cual la Oficina de Ingeniería del estado de Nuevo Mexico (NMSEO) determina la extensión de la propiedad de los derechos del agua en un área geográfica especifica del estado. Este es un poco similar al titulo de petición el cual establece el derecho de propiedad. Este proceso empezó por primera vez en el año de 1907 y eventualmente todos los derechos sobre el agua, en todo el estado, fueron concedidos. El proceso de adjudicación en el Condado de Taos se inició en 1969 con la parte norte del condado. Sin embargo, no existen fechas oficiales de cuando se estableció el proceso en lar parte sur del condado, la oficina de NMSEO ha indicado que este fué el siguiente en la agenda. Tipicamente, éste es un proceso lento y agonizante, el cual puede durar más de veinte años para completarse. Cuatro de los cinco casos más viejos en la corte federal son sobre casos de adjudicación del agua en Nuevo Mexico.

El proceso de adjudicación involucra dos fases. Primero, el NMSEO conduce una inspección hidrográfica la cual determina la propiedad del derecho del agua, el propósito para el uso de la misa, la prioridad (la fecha en la cual el agua fué instalada por primera vez con uso beneficioso en esa propiedad), el punto de desviación, el lugar de uso, la cantidad de acres irrigados, y la cantidad de agua requerida. Segundo, un litigio o pleito es archivado por el gobierno estatal o federal a través del cual la corte ordena ser sentenciado declarando que tanta agua cada usuario tiene derecho y el uso que se le va a dar a ésta. La ley estatal requiere que esta adjudicación sea hecha mediante un pleito y todos los usuarios del derecho del agua son integrados en este pleito. Cuando éste se ha completado, el NMSEO envía una oferta sobre el veredicto a cado uno de los propietarios del derecho del agua. El propietario puede aceptar o negar esta oferta. Las oposiciones son resueltas mediante futuras investigaciones por el NMSEO o en una audiencia en la corte. Cuando la oferta es firmada por el estado y por el poseedor de los derechos del agua, la corte escribe una orden confirmando este acuerdo. Cuando todos los derechos han sido establecidos en un sistema determinado de arroyos, un individuo o grupo de individuos pueden retar el juicio sobre los derechos del agua de otros en ese sistema de arroyos si ellos sienten que esos derechos han sido injustamente adjudicados. El NMSEO entonces conduce audiencias sobre esas alegaciones. Cuando éstas son resueltas, la corte emite el veredicto final el cual especifica los derechos de cada uno de los propietarios del derecho del agua dentro del sistema.

La Jicarita habló con David Benavides y Fred Waltz, abogados especialistas en las leyes sobre el agua en Nuevo Mexico, y Geoff Bryce, director de la Asociación de la Acequia del Valle de Taos, para encontarar quienes de los parciantes (los poseedores de los derechos del agua) pueden ser protegidos sus derechos durante el proceso de adjudicación. Primero, y lo más importante, los parciantes deben utilizar sus derchos sobre el agua. Los derechos del agua que no son usados pueden ser perdidos legalmente. Si durante el proceso de adjudicación, el NMSEO determina que un derecho no ha sido determinado dentro de un "uso provechoso," durante cuatro años consecutivos, se le enviará una carta certificada al propietario de los derechos informándole que tiene un año para poner a funcionar el derecho sobre el agua. Si al final de ese año, el derecho del agua no ha sido utilizado, éste podrá ser perdido. Segundo, es muy importante que los parciantes usen su agua para irrigación en cada parte de su terreno que es irrigable. El NMSEO calcula que el "trabajo con el agua" (la cantidad de agua que contenida en un derecho de agua adjudicada) de cada parciante está basada sobre la cantidad total de tierra en irrigación que posee. Si una porción del campo el cual tiene derechos de irrigación de algún modo llega a ser irrigable como consecuencia de haber crecido demaciado sauces, por ejemplo, o ha llegado a ser muy rocosa para apoyar la pastura, o porque la acequia no ha sido reparada, esa porción del terreno no será considerada al calcular el "trabajo con el agua" y la cantidad de agua adjudicada a ese pedazo de tierra será disminuida. Las áreas donde las casas, construcciones afuera, carreteras y cercas que han sido construidas en terrenos de irrigación tambiém serán sustraidas.

Los parciantes pueden protegerse a si mismos contra esas pérdidas a través de muchas formas. Ellos pueden tranferir la porción no usada de sus derechos a un pedazo de terreno que no tiene derechos para el agua, el cual es accesible a la acequia, o ellos pueden aprovechar una nueva ley y crear un programa de conservación para la acequia dando la porción no usada de sus derechos para el agua a la asociasción de la acequia. Esta primavera la Asociasción de la Acequia del Valle de Taos llegará a ser la primera asociasción de acequia en el estado que implementará este programa de conservación. En una enmienda sobre los estatutos de confiscación en el estado, a la asociasción de las acequias se les permite ahora la creación de programas de conservación por medio del cual los derechos del agau que no han sido usados por cualquier razón que nosotros no hemos mencionado pueden se temporalmente o permanentemente dados a las asociación de las zanjas para distribuirla entre los parciantes que la asociación considere pertinente. La Coalición para la Protección de la Acequia de El Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo estará patrocinando una reunión en la primavera en cual los miembros de la Asociación de la Acequia en del Valle de Taos dará detalles de cómo este programa ha sido implementado en su comunidad.

Otras medidas que los expertos sugieren a sus comunidades para poder usar sus derechos sobre el agua incluyen: las asociaciones de las acequias deben levantar mapas de todas las tierras sobre irrigación dentro de sus comunidades las cuales pueden estimar la cantidad de terreno que cada parciante está irrigando; los vecinos sirviendo de testigos para cada uno sobre el uso de agua; y asociciones de acequias dentro de un área adjudicada unidos para hablar en una sola voz. Esta última medida es muy importante, como una adjudicación puede incitar a las asociasciones de las acequias las cuales tienen historias de cientos de años sobre cooperación, a pelear contra cada una. David Benavides también anotó que las asociaciones de las acequies han hecho negociasciones pasivas y muy deterioradas con el NMSEO las cuales han sido peores que otras que han sido preparadas por ellos mismos fuertemente en defensa de sus derechos del agua.

La Jicarita continuará cubriendo esta problemática durante los meses venideros, con noticias actuales sobre los programas de implementación y conservación del agua y sobre toda la información adicional que recibamos. Nosotos también estamos patrocinando reuniones con expertos para discutir estas problematicas. Todas las preguntas y comentarios de nuerstros lectores son bienvenidas.

Bureau of Land Management Studying the Rio Embudo for Wild and Scenic Eligibility

By Kay Matthews

At a recent Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition meeting, Steve Henke and Bill Overbaugh of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) discussed the status of the Rio Grande Management Plan currently being formulated. Under the plan, the section of the Rio Grande from the Taos County line near Rinconada to the Velarde diversion is being studied for possible designation as a Wild and Scenic River. The upper portions of the Rio Grande are already so designated. Also being studied in the plan are portions of four tributaries of the Rio Grande: the Rio Embudo; Cañada Ojo Sarco; the Rio Quemado; and the Rio de las Trampas. That portion of the Rio Embudo being studied is a five-mile section beginning at the northern boundary of Picuris Pueblo and continuing through Embudo Canyon to Cañoncito (above Dixon). One-to-two-mile sections of the other tributaries (those portions of the rivers that flow through BLM lands) are included in the study (maps are available at the BLM office in Taos).

Wild and Scenic designation protects the values of a particular river that exist at the time of its designation. To be considered for inclusion in the Act, a river must be free-flowing, without diversions, and possess at least one outstanding value such as scenic, geologic, or cultural. A one-quarter-mile section of land on either side of the river is included in the study as part of the river corridor. Once a river is deemed eligible, the BLM will assign it a category: Wild; Scenic; or Recreational. A Wild classification means that the river is largely inaccessible, that there are no roads within the corridor, and that its shoreline is essentially primitive with no large put-ins or take-outs. A Scenic classification is defined by a largely primitive shore line, but may be accessible by roads. These roads can be parallel to the river but cannot cross it. A Recreational classification means the river is accessible by road or railroad and may have minor diversions, bridges, and powerlines within the corridor.

Currently, the upper portion of the Rio Grande (the Taos Box) is classified Wild; from the Taos Junction Bridge to the county line it is classified Scenic. The BLM recommendation for the lower portion currently being studied will probably be Recreational. Once the BLM completes its study, it recommends to Congress that a river be designated Wild, Scenic, or Recreational, but Congress is not bound by that recommendation once it designates a river.

The Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Coalition is particularly interested in the classification of the Rio Embudo, a major river in the Jicarita watershed. Historically, there has been little use of the river because of its inaccessibility&emdash;steep canyon walls and unroaded private lands surround much of the river corridor. But recently there appears to be an increased use by kayakers, who trespass across Picuris Pueblo land and private land in Cañoncito. If this section of the Embudo is classified Wild and Scenic, Steve and Bill explained that their agency would work with private landowners to prevent trespass. In all likelihood, the BLM will recommend that the Rio Embudo be classified Wild, to protect its existing wild and scenic features. Members of the coalition asked Steve and Bill about the current mining claims in the Rio Embudo area, and they said the BLM will work with the New Mexico Environment Department to mitigate any impacts the mining might have on water quality, but that the agency had no jurisdiction over the claims themselves.

The upper tributaries of the Rio Embudo&emdash;the Rio Pueblo and Rio Santa Barbara&emdash;might also quality for Wild and Scenic status, but these rivers flow mostly through Forest Service land. That agency is also involved in a survey to determine river eligibility, and the BLM is interested in working with the Forest Service on a comprehensive management plan that would include all three rivers. For example, the Rio Chama is jointly managed as a Wild and Scenic River by the BLM and Forest Service.

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Copyright 1996-2001 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.