A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, and Rio Embudo
Pictures by Eric Shultz Words by Chellis Glendinning
Puntos de Vista By David Benavides
"I don't remember a word I said during my 5 minute presentation,"Max Córdova told La Jicarita after he, Crockett Dumas and Audrey Kuykendall called from Washington D. C. to announce that all of us who have been involved in the Collaborative Stewardship project had just won an Innovations in Government Award. "It was an intense experience going up against a very impressive list of nominees."
Northern New Mexico Collaborative Stewardship is one of ten programs to win the award, which celebrates the innovative ways federal, state, and local governments have devised to cut through bureaucratic red tape and resolve public policy challenges. The awards of $100,000 for each of the 10 winners are funded by the Ford Foundation and administered by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In the press release, Susan Berresford, president of the Ford Foundation, said: "Many of government's most creative programs are now so familiar that we forget that their origins were experimental. From the GI bill to the Internet, our government has created many new ways to fulfill our nation's potential. These 10 Innovations Award winners remind us that, despite the media's frequent contention to the contrary, government paves the way for much of our country's success."
The Northern New Mexico Collaborative Stewardship program was recognized in particular for its suc-cess in making forest management on the Camino Real Ranger District of Carson National Forest more democratic and inclusive. "As a winner of the Innovations in American Government awards, we are being recognized for working together to raise local standards of living, improve forest health, develop efficient business techniques, and create enhanced job satisfaction," said Crockett Dumas, district ranger. Tired of the appeals and litigation that were making it impossible to address these issues, the district began a collaborative process to identify desired conditions that would enhance the biodiversity of the forest as well as sustain local communities. On the ground projects that address these goals include: green fuelwood, latilla and viga sales to meet local communities needs as well as much needed forest thinning; La Moñtana de Truchas Woodlot that provides jobs and value-added wood products by thinning overgrown forest stands; and the restoration of the Santa Barbara Grazing Allotment in collaboration with permittees, The Conservation Fund, the Quivira Coalition, the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition, and the New Mexico Environment Department. Forest-plan driven projects that have caused contention and litigation within the community, such as the Angostura timber sale and the Sipapu Ski Area expansion proposal, have either been dropped or are being mediated. Traveling to Washington to represent the program was enormously gratifying for Córdova, Dumas and Kuykendall. "Having [our program] become an Innovations in American Government winner is the highlight of my 30-year career as a federal employee," Dumas said. Córdova, who as president of the Truchas Land Grant has worked hard to be an advocate for his community, had this to say: "We need to continue to work together, even if we don't see eye to eye on everything. Communities can play a large role in helping the Forest Service meet their goals of forest health."
La Madera Community Association has a new home at the Methodist Church in Vallecitos. The Association is a nonprofit organization that has worked for the last decade on sustainable forest projects, including the production of vigas, latillas, cabinets and kiva ladders. Members come from all of the local communities near the Vallecitos Sustained Yield Unit: Vallecitos, La Madera, Petaca, Cañon Plaza, Las Tablas and Servilleta Plaza. After struggling for many years with government policies that favored large timber sales over small sales and nonprofit contractors, as well as a lack of funding for equipment investment and technical assistance, the Association is back on track with a new campaign to raise more than $300,000. They hope to complete renovations on the church buildings, add space for more classroom and community facilities, and hire and train staff to provide business assistance to residents. The facilities will eventually house a business assistance center, arts, crafts and computer training, a bed and breakfast, and a traditional arts and crafts retail outlet.
A grant from the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People provided $35,000 towards the purchase and renovation of the church, and the New Mexico Community Foundation has provided a grant of $10,000 to hire and train staff from the area to oversee the marketing programs for sustainably harvested fuel wood, traditional and contemporary wood furniture and traditional arts and crafts. With computer equipment donated by West World Computers and New Mexico Tech Net, the association plans to offer computer classes this winter for area residents. Manuel Gurulé, president of the Association, has worked, along with many other community residents, to keep alive the vision of a sustainable and healthy forest community. Now, with staff on board, that goal will be attainable.
For more information about the Association or the classes being offered, call 582-4200.
Taos Valley Acequia Association and Rio Chama Acequia Association Formalize Acequia Conservation Program
By Mark Schiller
The Taos Valley Acequia Association (TVAA), which represents 64 acequias in the Taos valley, and the Rio Chama Acequia Association, which represents 27 acequias in the Chama valley, have, in conjunction with the Office of the State Engineer (SEO), formulated a 6-point set of guidelines (see box) to initiate a pilot acequia conservation program. This program is intended to serve as a model for acequias throughout the state to protect their water rights and conserve water. It could also establish a legal basis for an acequia to "bank" water apportioned to the acequia but currently being unused, thus protecting it from forfeiture (non-use of a water right for a period of four or more years). This "banked" water can be used within the acequia or leased to other acequias or water users for a prescribed period of time. However, the SEO does maintain the right to question the validity of rights proposed for the program that it claims have been "abandoned" (formerly irrigated land that has become unirrigable because of buildings, roads, fences, etc.) through judicial or administrative proceedings.
Here's how the program will work. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) will make a site visit to the acequia applying to the program to observe the condition of the acequia and current water management practices. Based upon its observations it will make recommendations to the acequia how it can most efficiently manage its water. The acequia will then submit this conservation plan, along with proof of ownership, a map depicting points of diversion and places of use, and verification of the validity of water rights to the SEO. The SEO will then help the acequia devise an appropriate plan and implementation schedule. Acequias are under no obligation to spend money to implement this plan, but it is hoped that money administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, other governmental agencies, and foundations, will be available for upgrading and rehabilitating acequias in the program.
In addition to the conservation program, TVAA is working with county and state governmental agencies, the Forest Service, and utility corporations to create a data base that will eventually form a geographic information system network. Among other uses, it would allow the TVAA and other groups concerned with water use, to overlay hydrographic survey maps on county assessor maps to produce an accurate account of who owns water rights (both surface and ground) and in what quantity. This in turn will serve as the basis for a county-wide regional water plan.
The TVAA has also been instrumental in getting county and state government to recognize that acequias are political subdivisions of the state and therefore entitled to representation by the county district attorney and the state attorney general when their sovereignty is threatened. For more information about any of these programs, readers can contact the TVAA at 758-9461.
1. Only those acequias or community ditch associations described in Statute 72-5-28 (G) [State Forfeiture Statute] are eligible to participate in an approved acequia conservation program. Surface water rights eligible for inclusion in an acequia conservation program must be appurtenant to acreage irrigated from an acequia.
2. Periods of non-use when surface water rights are acquired and placed in a State Engineer approved conservation program by an acequia or community ditch association pursuant to Statute 72-5-28 (G) shall not be computed as part of the four-year forfeiture period.
3. Acceptance of a claimed water right in an approved conservation program shall not preclude any participant, including without limitation the State Engineer, in an administrative or judicial proceeding involving the claimed water rights from disputing their validity.
4. Each application for an SEO-approved conservation program must include a farm conservation plan containing appropriate water conservation measures from the NRCS, proof of ownership, a map depicting point(s) of diversion and place(s) of use, and verification as to the status and validity of the water rights proposed for inclusion in the program, such proof to be in a form specified by the SEO staff. Based on the NRCS recommendations and in consultation with the acequia, the SEO staff will devise a conservation plan and implementation schedule for approval by the SEO.
5. Upon the request of the SEO or every five years, whichever is less, the acequia shall submit an audit of its conservation program, in a format approved by the SEO, demonstrating that implementation and maintenance of the program is on schedule.
6. The State Engineer may revoke approval of a conservation program for failure to timely implement the program or require modifications to an existing program for the following reasons: A. changed conditions; B. to comply with newly enacted statute(s) or newly promulgated regulations; C. to remove conflicts with existing or new SEO policies; or D. to comply with an order of a court.
Editorial By Kay Matthews
On a recent trip to Colorado I picked up a copy of the Denver Post's "Water in the West," a collection of articles delineating the water battles between the thirsty Front Range cities - Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver - and the agricultural, small-town western slope communities. One article dealt with the latest scheme to transfer water from the San Luis Valley to Denver. Another article discussed the "Showdown in South Park" whereby the city of Aurora, next to Denver, would pump 2 billion gallons of water a year from the South Park aquifer. Two important legislative issues are on the state ballot as well, which could determine how effectively communities can work towards protecting their water rights.
These stories could be written about any of the western states with only the names of the communities and cities changed. Here in New Mexico, as the trend towards transfer of water resources to urban, industrial, and recreational use continues, it is imperative that we forge alliances to protect the waters that sustain rural ecosystems and communities. The water conservation program being implemented by the Taos Valley Acequia Association and the Rio Chama Acequia Association is a step in the right direction, as are the efforts being made by groups like the the Sangre de Cristo growers in Costilla, NewFarms near Rociada, farmers markets, and many individuals all over northern New Mexico to promote sustainable agriculture. A strong and viable acequia system which works to keep its water rights within the community will help sustain and maintain farm lands, open space, and biodiversity.
Unfortunately, other groups and agencies work at cross purposes to these efforts. The Western Water Policy Report, chaired by New Mexico's Denise Fort, maintains that the highest and best uses of water are urban, industrial and recreational, and as federal agencies become increasingly more involved in water management, that will be their agenda. Groups that use federal laws like the Endangered Species Act to override state authority, such as Forest Guardian's suit over the Rio Grande Compact, also work towards that effect. While their stated goal is to protect river ecology, the result will further impair the ability of local acequia associations to maintain autonomy within their communities and negatively impact acequia ecosystems.
At a recent workshop funded by a New Mexico foundation to develop common agendas for working on agriculture, timber and water issues, the head of a southern New Mexico environmental group who has been working to legislate instream flow and open the door to federal river management, asked several of the acequia representatives there: "How can anyone be against instream flow? If that's your position, then you are my enemy." How sad that someone who is working towards a healthy environment and the conservation of our water resources can be so insensitive to the human communities that this water has always sustained. How can the people who have built and maintained an incredible system of acequias that create riparian habitats and farmlands and open space be his enemy? No one is "against instream flow," if that means maintaining the health and vitality of our rivers. Acequias are against the policies that will designate instream flow as a beneficial water right for sale in the free market. This is in direct opposition to keeping water within communities and tied to the land. It is a policy that buys into an increasingly market-driven economy whereby everything becomes a commodity, to be sold to the highest bidder. Water is not a commodity. Sin agua no hay vida. Our acequias arez fundamental to the protection of that life-giving water. As the bumper sticker in Taos says: "Nuestras acequias: Vida, cultura, tradición."
Pictures by Eric Shultz Words by Chellis Glendinning
Some people call it "progress," others "development" and "the future." But growing numbers of folks around the world are calling it "a mistake," "unsustainable," and "the new imperialism." The global economy is a system of corporate control that is swiftly penetrating into our lands, our communities, our pocketbooks, even our minds. It's a system made legal in 1995 by a document called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. According to GATT, multinational corporations have the right to take, use, and sell anything they want - and the people of northern New Mexico lose the right to make decisions about our lands, communities, and lifeways.
Mobile home park in Española
MI CASA ES SU CASA. In the global economy, 75 million people a year are uprooted and displaced from their homelands by the breakup of traditional land holdings, the need to make money, toxic pollution, and economic collapse. As a result, people often cannot build traditional homes. The affordable home becomes a prefab construction made in a factory.
Industrial Park in Española
¡TIERRA O NIKE! The signpost of globalization is the cash economy - and, therefore, the mass manufacture and sale of goods. The means is to remove people from the land and make them dependent on money.
McDonald's in Española
¿QUE PASA¿ QUE PASA? Feeding 35 million people a day and opening a new outlet every 3 hours, McDonald's is the largest food-service corporation on the planet. Mass production of food causes cruel conditions for animals, a glut of paper products contributing to global deforestation, and meals oozing with saturated fats and sodium that increase risk of heart disease and cancer.
Wal-Mart under construction in Española
SMILE. Wal-Mart's dream is to be the biggest consumer outlet in the world. Opening a new store every three days, it underprices local merchants until they fold and then jacks up its prices. Jobs are mostly parttime, with no benefits, and most of the goods are produced in sweatshops in Third World countries.
Highway 285 through Velarde
DRIVERS NEEDED. Superhighways are required for high-speed shipment of resources, goods, and equipment from source to manufacture. The new roads have no regard for land, human relationship, or tradition. Highway 285/84 between Santa Fe and Española is slated to become a six-lane thoroughfare, complete with cloverleaf interchanges.
Cineplex is coming to Sombrillo - along with a golf course and casino
CHANGE YOUR WHOLE ATTITUDE. Movies made by multinational conglomerates like Time Warner and Viacom tout city life, materialism, sex, and violence - making rural, land-based ways look stupid and old-fashioned and corporate-based life glamorous.
According to Richard Jolly of the United Nations Development Program, growth that is destructive to land and community falls into five categories: Jobless Growth: the overall economy of a region appears to grow, but there are not many new jobs. Ruthless Growth: the fruits of growth benefit the already-rich, like CEOs at Burger King. Voiceless Growth: growth does not occur as the result of democratic decision-making. Rootless Growth: cultural practices and identity fade as a region's communal life comes to be determined by the corporate monoculture. Futureless Growth: the means of growth consumes its very foundations - its air and water and land - squandering resources for future generations.
Puntos de Vista
By David Benavides
Editor's note: David Benavides is a water rights attorney for Northern New Mexico Legal Services. Anyone who would like more information about the programs discussed in the article should contact David at 1-800-373-9881 or 982-9886 in Santa Fe.
Many people are talking once again about what happened with the land grants and the important question of whether land grant heirs can finally receive any justice for what occurred. But what about the water rights and the acequias of New Mexico? Could the same thing happen to them that happened to the land grants? Unfortunately, as many of us now know, there are almost as many ways for acequias to lose their water rights as there were schemes to steal land grants a hundred years ago.
Keeping your own water rights from being taken away is usually simply a matter of using them, because the law requires you to "use-it-or-lose-it". The State Engineer Office has ways of finding out if you are not using your water rights, even if they never come and inspect your land. In the past, the state has used aerial photography to prove in court which lands have not been irrigated for long periods of time. Sometimes the state will try to take away part of your water rights, if they feel part of your lands have not been irrigated for a long time. The state is now moving to satellite "photography" for the same purpose. Rather than risk losing your water rights, it is best to:
Keep irrigating, every year if possible.
Irrigate all your lands that have water rights whenever there is plenty of water available.
If you have a piece of land with water rights that has not been irrigated for a number of years, irrigate it next year. Don't wait any longer!
Don't put houses, trailers, roads, pavement, corrals, etc. on lands with water rights or you will lose the water rights where those items are placed. If you must build on irrigated lands, look into setting up a water rights pooling system or a "water bank" on your acequia or with several neighboring acequias. Water rights that would otherwise be lost because of construction can be preserved if they are properly placed in this type of community water rights pooling system. Acequia organizations are now starting different types of these systems (see, for example, TVAA article). You should contact our office (or one of these organizations) for more information or for help in setting up a system like this for your acequia or your community.
Keeping water rights in the community
The bigger challenge is for communities to keep water rights from being moved out of the community. Each year, acequias are faced with having to fight proposals to transfer acequia water rights to some commercial or municipal use outside of the acequia or the community. It is a growing problem, and one that will keep growing as the outside demand for water rights grows.
What your community will be like in the future will depend on how hard you work to keep water rights in the community. Acequia parciantes who are thinking about the future realize that what is true about the past is also true about the future: just asthe existence of our communities was made possible because the original settlers built the acequias, in the same way, the acequias and the water rights will make it possible for our communities to survive and exist in the future. Perhaps in the future a parciante will be running a commercial greenhouse where there is now an alfalfa field; perhaps instead of a vegetable garden there will be a garden that grows a profitable specialty crop that is in high demand. Whatever type of development is appropriate for your community, without water rights, without the acequias, none of it will be possible. People and communities who have water rights will have more options for making a good living and for a healthy local economy than people and communities that have lost or sold their water rights.
To many of us these things are obvious. Every time we remind ourselves and our children and our neighbors of the importance of keeping water rights in the community, we help ensure the future of our communities. But we have to remember that it is people and organizations outside our communities that in many ways are the bigger problem. They are the ones trying to buy water rights and transfer them without first seeking the approval of the community or the acequia comisión. They are the ones who are moving the water rights to where they will no longer bring value to the community. What do we do about them?
Fighting against water transfers and channeling the demand
The law would seem to protect acequias from these actions, since transfers that are against the "public welfare" are not supposed to be approved. Unfortunately, we have learned that the decision-makers in these cases rarely make a real effort to look at how water transfers affect the public welfare, so many transfers get approved that should not. That is not to say that communities should stop fighting these transfers; many times the communities do win when they fight them. It's just that the law doesn't do as good a job as it should in protecting acequia communities.
Since the demand for acequia water rights isn't going away and since the law's protections are unpredictable, some acequia communities are thinking of things they can do on their own to protect themselves. In Las Vegas, for example, the City of Las Vegas is emerging as an entity whose need for water will be a constant threat to the acequias there. It probably isn't realistic for the acequias to be completely closed and hostile to the city. Perhaps acequias in situations like that can try to force the entity that wants the water to deal with the acequias on their terms. Perhaps one term would be that an outside entity could never permanently remove the water from the land, but would have to respect that the ownership of the right must always remain within the community, and therefore all the outside entity could ask for is to lease the right to use (not own) water for a period of time, and then return the water use to the acequia when the lease is up. Perhaps another term would be that this type of lease could only occur when water rights are available to lease because some parciante was not going to be using their water right in a particular year or years. If the acequia commission determined that there were no water rights available to lease, or felt that the proposal was inappropriate, the outside entity would have to leave that acequia alone and go somewhere else for water. Through terms like this, the acequia could channel the demand for water into arrangements that the acequia might be able to live with.
You can see how these terms can work in conjunction with the type of water right pooling system that was mentioned in the first part of this article. The system that is set up could pool water rights that might otherwise be lost to non-use. These same water rights could be part of a lease arrangement, so that an outside entity would not need to acquire permanent water rights and disrupt the resource base of the community. In different years, different water rights might be in the pool. In this way, the parciantes' water rights would be preserved against forfeiture, and at the same time the community would benefit or at least make the best of a difficult situation.
Lack of knowledge about acequias
One final thing that is important to do in any situation, even if you are not experiencing an immediate threat to your water rights, is to inform people about acequias. You might be surprised how little understanding there is among decision-makers and the public about acequias, yet these are people that are having more and more influence over our water rights and over water laws and policies. A year doesn't go by these days without some person proposing a change in water laws or water policy that is bad for acequias. Of course, these people need to realize their own ignorance or their own biases and do something about it themselves. (See, for example, the excellent Puntos de Vista by Dana Wise in last month's La Jicarita, October, 1998.) People need to better understand what acequias are, how they operate, the threats to acequias, what they need and what is bad for them, why water transfers jeopardize the community's future, etc. We must take every opportunity to teach decision-makers about these things, or to educate the voting public so that they in turn can educate the decision-makers. The future of our acequias will depend on our willingness to defend our water rights and on our ability to work together as a unified group to do so.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.