Pueblo Design
 La Jicarita

A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico

Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521

Volume XIV

July 2009

Number VI


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Embudo's Clovis Romero Named "Farmer of the Year" By Mark Schiller

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Finally Releases Historic Contaminant Report for Los Alamos National Laboratory By Kay Matthews

Mora Citizens Turn Out In Force at County Commission Meeting on Oil and Gas Development By Kay Matthews


Editorial: Rio Arriba County Developments and Subdivisions: Second Homes for the Wealthy, Assuming There's Any Wealth Left By Kay Matthews

Acequias de la Sierra By Mark Schiller

Embudo's Clovis Romero Named "Farmer of the Year"

By Mark Schiller

Clovis Romero's roots in the Embudo Valley run deep, both literally and figuratively: a farmer and orchardist with over three hundred fruit trees Romero has genealogical charts that trace his family's settlement in Embudo to the 18th century. Romero was recently recognized as the "Farmer of the Year" at an acequia celebration sponsored by the Dixon/Embudo Regional Acequia Association. This is not the first time Clovis' beautifully maintained orchard and farm have been publicly recognized. In 2004 the East Rio Arriba Soil and Water Conservation District also designated him Farmer of the Year.

Romero's 10.5 acre farm was first cultivated by his father, Octaviano, who built a house and began planting fruit trees and farming the irrigated property, originally owned by Clovis' grandfather Matias, in 1922. Octaviano then married the "girl next door", Bersabe Archuleta, and together they raised five children, including Clovis' three sisters and one brother. Clovis explained that the family rented a house in Santa Fe during the fall and winter so that the children could attend school there and returned to the farm for the spring and summer growing season. Clovis attended Saint Francis Parochial school until the eighth grade, and then went to Santa Fe High. He was drafted into the Army in 1954, spending 15 months in Korea. Upon his return, he completed his education at Saint Michael's College (which latter became the College of Santa Fe), obtaining a degree in Business Administration in 1960. He went on to work 31 years for the State Land Office as a financial supervisor, retiring at the end of 1991.

During all this time Clovis was busy at the farm as well. In 1958 he and his brother Arsenio planted 300 fruit trees that formed the core of the orchard, many of which remain productive to this day. Clovis worked the farm with his brother and mother until 1964, when he married Benina Ortega, a descendent of the well known weaving family of Chimayó. "Nina" and Clovis then took over management of the farm and were subsequently helped by their children, Matias and Felice.

The orchard now consists of approximately 330 trees. The more than 270 apple trees include Red and Golden Delicious, Romes, Winesaps, McIntosh, and heirloom summer apples. Clovis also has two varieties of pears, four varieties of peaches, several varieties of apricots, and Italian plums. The carefully pruned trees and beautifully maintained grounds testify to the love the Romero family has devoted to the farm and orchard for more than 50 years.

Beginning about Labor Day and continuing through the Dixon Studio Tour in early November, Clovis will be selling apples and other fruit at the farm. He has also started a "pick your own" program that allows buyers to purchase fruit at a reduced price and plans to complete a refrigerated storage area this summer to extend his selling season The Orchard is located just off the main Dixon road on County Road 1105, Driveway #65. You can contact Clovis at 505-579-4378 or email romerosorchd@cybermesa.com

Congratulations, Clovis, on a richly deserved award!

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Finally Releases Historic Contaminant Report for Los Alamos National Laboratory

By Kay Matthews

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working on a history and analysis of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) accidents, radioactive and chemical releases, and routine operations for 10 years. Officially called the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment Project (LAHDRA) this study by the CDC is the last of the projects that have reported on the same issues at the other nuclear weapons site in the country: Rocky Flats, Savannah River, and Hanford. Not surprisingly, the report speculates that plutonium releases from LANL may exceed the combined releases from these other three sites.

The meeting, which took place at Pojoaque Pueblo's Buffalo Thunder Resort on the same day the pueblo defaulted on a multi-million dollar loan payment, was also a demonstration of the continuing disconnect between the scientists who live and work in Los Alamos (and who have been exposed to many toxic releases), the scientists who were hired to complete and review the LANL report, and the people of northern New Mexico. The CDC project director is a white male, the contractor who was hired by CDC to conduct the study is a white male, and the five men who served on the peer review committee for the project are all white males. The people in the audience who most actively participated in the comment period after the presentation by the white males were Hispano, Native American, and anti-nuclear NGO women who not only questioned the independence, validity, and extent of the report but the very existence of LANL as a racist and oppressive entity that has poisoned the environment and communities of el norte.

Unfortunately, after 10 years' work that was essentially a bureaucratic nightmare because of the vast amount of records stored at LANL (and many missing records), security clearance issues, and the Cerro Grande Fire (which temporarily shut down the project), this project completes only the first step - information gathering - in the process of reconstructing the dose of contaminants that local, and no doubt regional, New Mexicans have been exposed to throughout the history of LANL's operations. The project was funded through the Department of Energy, the same federal department that runs LANL, and more funding from the DOE will have to be allocated for dose reconstruction. Joni Arends of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) had this to say: "The continuation of the LAHDRA Project is essential to documenting historic releases from LANL, not only for this generation but for future generations. CCNS supports the next step, which is a dose reconstruction. What form that takes is dependent upon the input from the communities surrounding LANL that have been subjected to historical trauma and cultural and social impacts from LANL activities."

The airborne radionuclides that the CDC found needed the most screening were plutonium, tritium, and uranium, and the elemental metal beryllium. As is already well known, airborne releases of plutonium exceed previously published estimates by at least 100 times, and the report concluded that total releases may be well above 170 curies, as compared to 13 curies at Savannah River and two curies at Hanford. These amounts are particularly disturbing because of the close proximity of Los Alamos residential areas to the areas where the leaks occurred: Building 12, D Building, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Building, the DP site, TA-55, and others. Airborne tritium releases, between 1967 and 1995, were never lower than 10,700 curies and peaked at 38,600 Ci in 1977.

The report found that airborne enriched uranium releases were not above limits but that releases after the 1970s need to be followed up.

Beryllium was used at LANL before its hazards were fully recognized and a number of deaths are attributed to its use. Peak exposures are the most dangerous, not just annual releases, and the CDC report tried to determine those peaks. Their estimates could exceed all Environmental Protection Agency limits.

The CDC report also analyzed the Trinity Test on July 16, 1945 near Socorro, the first atomic explosion. Unlike at the Nevada Test Site and the Marshall Islands, citizen exposure to fallout from the blast has never been studied. At the time, monitoring instruments were crude and residents were not warned of residual health hazards, even though ranchers reported white powder on the ground and on roofs (and subsequently in their water supply) for four or five days after the blast. A cover story was concocted that the blast was just a military exercise posing no danger to the civilian population. Fallout was measured as far away as upstate New York and New England.

Ken Silver, an associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Eastern State Tennessee University, has long been involved in health issues associated with LANL. While he was unable to attend the CDC hearing, representatives there raised some of his concerns: "The LAHDRA report is an important work-in-progress. While it contains much useful information - especially on past releases of plutonium into the air - the report came up short in several important respects." Perhaps the most egregious is Silver's claim

that it ignored the July 1969 incident in which levels of radiation went sky-high in the hot cell at DP West, Room 401. Monitoring reports that Silver obtained in 1996 under the Freedom of Information Act had the hand-written notation, "These figures should not be recorded on yearly report." The LAHDRA report asserts that Room 401 was not in use at this time, which is also the Lab's official position.

In 1999, Silver worked on a document, distributed by CCNS, called "These Figures Should Not Be Recorded," or "43 things you should be asking about Los Alamos Historical Emissions but don't have the time to look up yourself." In the Introduction to his document, Silver declares that only through dose reconstruction can labs like LANL circumvent the difficulties involved in epidemiology studies of radiation exposure, particularly the misclassification of individuals' exposures. In order to adequately conduct a dose reconstruction, Silver urged the CDC, at the beginning of its 10-year research into LANL records, to find answers to his 43 questions.

He begins with two very important, overall questions, #1: "How shall we honor the environmental moms of Los Alamos who in 1946 demanded protection of children and family pets playing in canyons contaminated with plutonium? Who can tell us about other unrecognized acts of resistance by citizens and workers?" And #2: "For how many years after 1946 did the Lab have a policy of assigning a special internal classification to health-related documents whose release might result in lawsuits against the 'project'?"

He organizes his other questions into decades. Many of the questions concerning the 1950s are with regard to plutonium releases, which the CDC report admits were under reported. He also asks about the number of human radiation experiments that were conducted (exposed in Eileen Welsome's book The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiements in the Cold War), which skew any epidemiology studies. In the 1960s, he again asks about plutonium releases, how many indigent patients were recruited from Indian hospitals and local communities for experimentation, and about studies of thyroid cancers and female brain cancers. In the 1970s, he asks numerous questions about radioiodine isotopes for medical purposes and several purported accidents associated with it. In the 1980s, he asks about uranium and thorium bombardments along with radioiodine releases, and in the 1990s he asks about the destruction of historical documents.

Senator Tom Udall's office is asking the CDC to put Ken Silver on the review panel for any future work.

Mora Citizens Turn Out In Force at County Commission Meeting on Oil and Gas Development

By Kay Matthews

At the public hearing about potential oil and gas development that the Mora County Board of Commissioners and Planning and Zoning Commission held on June 6, the many citizens who attended were articulate, informed, passionate, and loud and clear that this kind of industrial activity is not appropriate in their unique, agriculturally-based valley. Over 90% of the more than 48 people who spoke (400 were in attendance) expressed their desire that there be no drilling on public or private lands in their county, but many acknowledged that while the county commission may not have the authority to ban drilling altogether, it must draft and enforce regulations that will protect the people, animals, and land from the harmful effects of the drilling and extraction that is looming on the horizon.

The first two people who spoke validated with first-hand experience the trepidations that were subsequently expressed by the Mora crowd. Chris Velasquez, of Blanco, New Mexico, and Tweeti Blancett of Aztec, are 4th and 6th generation ranchers whose lives have been impacted for years by oil and gas drilling in San Juan County. They both emphasized that there is no way anyone can run a ranch with the wells, pipelines, roads, and traffic that come with this industry. Velasquez (featured in the documentary "A Land Out of Time") claimed that because of contamination from the drilling 20 of his cows aborted in one year. They both emphasized that neither the local, state, or federal government will protect your land or your livelihood, and Velasquez told the crowd that he had given up on his Bureau of Land Management allotment with its 500 wells and 24-hour traffic. Blancett, who has been fighting the industry for years and profiled in numerous newspapers and magazines, encouraged the crowd to form alliances to protect themselves.

Tweeti Blancett talking with a Mora County rancher

Mora citizens have done just that. Drilling Mora County was organized several years ago and was largely responsible for getting the county commissioners to meet with the public (see their blog, drillingmoracounty.blogspot.com). Many of their active members spoke at the meeting, including Don Shaw, who provided the commission with a copy of the 2008 Santa Fe County Ordinance, which basically forced the industry out of the Galisteo Basin with its strict regulations. He urged the county to incorporate a similar ordinance into its Development and Guidance System. Many of the folks who helped Santa Fe County draft that ordinance were at the meeting in solidarity.

The majority of the speakers, however, were ordinary citizens from many of the small communities scattered throughout the county who had made it their responsibility to look into the impacts of the oil and gas industry on communities and the environment. They addressed a broad spectrum of concerns: with leases at $28 to $50 per acre, local people aren't going to be making that much money, and these leases can be sold, as one woman put it, "like Hunt [the Texas oil billionaire] sold those in Oklahoma to Kuwait;" the vast amounts of water, up to a million gallons, required to drill one well; the hazardous chemicals, including carcinogens, that are used in the industry's hydraulic fracturing process; that the health, agricultural base, culture, clean air and water, and beauty of the Mora Valley are a better measure of wealth than the money from oil and gas leases; that the industry does not hire many local people, and the revenues from the resource go to state coffers, not directly to the communities that must bear the infrastructure costs; and that the industry is exempt from the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act (done during the Bush administration). One heart-felt statement particularly stood out: "I never knew I was poor until I left here. But I came back, and my son found a way to make a living here because he loves the land like I do."

The few who spoke in favor of the industry made it an issue of property rights and the county's need for economic development. The industry lobby was also there, with an information table and a lawyer, Karin Foster, who was condescending and offensive to the crowd. She urged the commission to disregard the "half-truths" expressed by the community and to "educate" itself about private property rights. She got many guffaws from the audience when she claimed "the rules and regulations are here" to protect landowners. Bob Gallagher, President of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association got an even bigger laugh when he ended his industry pep talk with the warning, "Don't be confused by east coast liberals telling us how to live." Sofia Martinez, who as head of Concerned Citizens for Wagon Mound successfully fought an unwanted landfill, fortuitously followed Gallager, and speaking in Spanish and English, made it clear that it is the citizens of the Mora Valley who don't want the oil and gas industry in their lives.

La Jicarita News will continue to follow developments as the county works to updates its regulations.





The New Mexico Forest Industry Association (NMFIA), a 501(c)6 non-profit industry association with office space currently in Santa Fe, is seeking an Executive Director (ED) responsible for administration and operation of NMFIA. The ED plans, develops, and implements policies and objectives of NMFIA in accordance with Board directives and is responsible for day-to-day operations of NMFIA. He/She serves as primary contact and public representative for NMFIA, and oversees NMFIA programs. The ED directs, coordinates, and ensures fiscally responsible procedures to include budgeting, fundraising, and related grant writing and to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal laws. The ED is responsible for spearheading the NMFIA legislative program. The ED will be responsible for the overall direction, coordination, and evaluation of NMFIA employees. The salary is to be commensurate with experience.

A bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university and six years related experience; or total of ten years education and related experience is preferred. Applicant must be computer literate and have excellent communication skills.

Letter of Application and Resume should be sent to Mila Allen, Esq, Secretary/Treasurer &endash; Board of Directors, via e-mail to milan.nm.lawyer@gmail.com, faxed to (505) 287-6687, or mail to New Mexico Forest Industry Association, P.O. Box 2340, Milan, NM 87021. All applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on July 15, 2009 MDT.

•A celebration of Miranda Canyon will be held on Saturday, August 8, from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Bareiss Gallery in Taos. John Nichols, Sawnie Morris, and Mirabai Starr will read from 7-9, with music by Bob Rael. There is a suggested $10 donation. New works from an assortment of artists will be on display until August 29.

• The Taos County Commission, in a unanimous decision, denied the Miranda Canyon Preserve proposal on July 14, after an all day hearing attended by numerous local citizens. The county attorney will release a finding of fact within 30 days that lays out the reasons for that decision

La Jicarita News went to Vadito on June 28 to cover the meeting of those folks wanting to write their own land use plan. They had decided at the last Peñasco Area Communities Association (PACA) meeting on May 21 to reject the proposed plan put together by Taos County contractor Charlie Deans and a local volunteer committee and start from scratch, with at least two representatives from each Peñasco Valley community participating. Only two folks from Chamisal showed up. We waited for about twenty minutes, talking among ourselves, and then I went home. If anyone who was organizing the June 28 meeting would contact La Jicarita News and let us know what happened, we'd appreciate it: 505 689-2200 or news@lajicarita.org.

Editorial: Rio Arriba County Developments and Subdivisions: Second Homes for the Wealthy, Assuming There's Any Wealth Left

By Kay Matthews

Canyon Ridge, A Rare Earth Community. . . "where you can step out of time and see the world as it was in the beginning," where "since ancient days, these unchartered forests have hosted hunters, pioneers, adventurers and prospectors. But not settlers." Where exactly is this 21st century proposed settlement of lodges, casitas, equestrian centers, and ranchettes? Well what do you know, it's the former Tierra Amarilla land grant, which somehow in the developers' imagination was never a settlement, maybe because in their world cows and sheep don't count.

The Rio Arriba Board of County Commissioners approved a master plan for Canyon Ridge, A Rare Earth Community, last August. The plan calls for 78 ranchettes, ranging in size from 10 to 30 acres at $900,0000 a pop; 12 luxury casitas, at $600,000 each; a $3,500,000 lodge; a $1 million equestrian center; and a 4,300 acre conservation easement, which makes it all good, just like the developers of the Miranda Canyon Preserve assure us.

Canyon Ridge is owned by a North Carolina development company that specializes in high-end second home resort communities. One of the principals in the company is Mike Plant, Executive Vice President/Business Operation for the Atlanta Braves. The story goes that he discovered the area while flying around in his private plane looking for potential development sites. The 5,700 acre Canyon Ridge (previously known as the Ryan Ranch and then Briar Rose) is located northeast of Tierra Amarilla near the village of Enseñada at an altitude of over 9,000 feet. But those locations don't appear on the map included in the company's lavish brochure called "Life in Bold Strokes." Because the development is being promoted as a luxury resort, the brochure emphasizes its location near Chama, Pagosa Springs, and Durango, all described as centers of recreation with "all the amenities." The brochure also states, "Canyon Ridge stands at the gateway to southern Colorado and the San Juan Mountains . . . [with] easy access to Albuquerque, Taos, Santa Fe and all the amenities boasted by these storied localities."

The Canyon Ridge brochure map

A photograph in the Canyon Ridge brochure "A Life in Bold Strokes" showing one of the many recreational activities that will be available

The developers of course don't mention that the 5,700 acres in reference was originally the Tierra Amarilla land grant, bought up by the infamous Thomas B. Catron and eventually acquired by William Mundy, our own 20th century land baron, who came to northern New Mexico in 1951. He bought 11,000 acres "for a song" because of clouded titles, and his family now owns several other developments to the south and west of Canyon Ridge. The Ponderosa development, whose owner is listed as Mundy & Mundy Corporation, doesn't fall under Rio Arriba subdivision regulations and consists of 500 units of one to 12 acres in size. Another Mundy development, Ticonderoga, also falls outside the subdivision radar screen (before the promulgation of county master plan requirements) and consists of 500 units of five to 165 acres.

The third Mundy development, Los Escondidos, listed under Mundy Ranch, is being developed as a subdivision, and the county commission has approved its master plan. In a conversation I had with Rio Arriba Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning Gabe Boyle about all these developments, he claimed credit for bringing the Mundy Development Corporation into subdivision compliance with the promulgation of its master plan, making it a much better process than in the unregulated Ponderosa and Ticonderoga developments. According to Boyle, the county's adoption of the master planning process makes these kinds of developments less political and provides better public scrutiny. He also said that the subdivision regulations need to be updated, but at the present time the county lacks the capacity to do so.

Los Escondidos consists of 130 ten-acre lots on 5,680 acres with 25 shared domestic wells. Where shared wells will occur depends upon the hydrology report being conducted as Phase I of the development process. A septic system will include tertiary liquid waste treatment on site, with recycled water that can be used for landscaping. There are also plans for a nine-hole golf course, an equestrian center, casitas, and tennis court. Mundy Ranch is looking into a conservation easement on 4,000 acres.

Former County Commissioner and current County Clerk Moises Morales is not happy with the Los Escondidos subdivision, just as he's unhappy with the Canyon Ridge development because of concerns about water. At the original county commission hearing on the Canyon Ridge master plan in December of 2006 (the plan was then rejected by the commission), Morales said, "[t]he water table is going downhill all the way from Medanales, El Rito, Ojo Caliente, Canjilon, etc., . . . and that one of [Patricio] Garcia's employees pushed the subdivision 100% without even thinking of who is going to correct the wrong when all the communities are dry." The Planning and Zoning Department, under the direction of Patricio Garcia, endorsed the master plan. Other citizens, including Antonio Manzanares, Mario Martinez and Dennis Wells of the Tierra Amarilla land grant, Steve Polaco, and Ed Sanchez also testified against the development.

Both the county and the developers are pushing these subdivisions as "green" developments, much like the Weimer family in Taos has been presenting the proposed Miranda Canyon Preserve (which will go before the Taos County Commission on July 14) with the tertiary treatment systems, water conservation systems such as drip irrigation and low flow fixtures, protection of riparian areas, sensitivity to topography, etc. They also tout their contribution to the community: "There is for no practical intent, an impact to the County infrastructure or services; however, the Los Escondidos will create substantial real property tax base for Rio Arriba County resulting in lower tax assessments for local residents, projected tax revenues of greater than $200,000 based on current Ticonderoga revenues, and various opportunities for local employment supporting the build out and post operation and maintenance of the infrastructure."

Of course, regarding the tax assessments, the inverse of their claim is more likely true, as once lands are developed and their value increases, everyone's land taxes increase. Local employment usually means low paying construction and maintenance wages. Another claim all these subdividers make is that they will be responsible for fire protection for their million-dollar developments by working with the local community fire departments and, in the case of Los Escondidos, "pursu[ing] state and federal funding for forest thinning and urban interface buffers." State and federal agencies can't keep up with the already existing urban interfaces that desperately need thinning, and more developments in the middle of forest land will only tax their resources further. Witness what has happened in California on a disastrous scale and what is beginning to happen in the rest of the Rocky Mountain states that are experiencing more and more of these kinds of upscale developments.

As I wrote in a previous editorial in August, 2005 about the proliferation of ranchettes in Montana, some environmentalists, like the folks in the county, claim this kind of development is perhaps one of the only ways land isn't going to be further divided and fenced and put off limits to wildlife. That when people own a piece of land and become familiar with its plants and animals they become better stewards. Unfortunately, this is all well and good in theory, but in practice the kinds of wealthy homeowners who can buy into these kinds of subdivisions usually don't have much of a connection to the land besides building a monster house on it or riding their mountain bikes across it. Fortunately, the existence of these kinds of homeowners is theoretical as well, as they're not beating down the door to buy lots in any of these subdivisions. To my knowledge there hasn't been a single sale in Canyon Ridge, and apparently the Mundy's are financially overcommitted in Los Escondidos and everything there is on hold (William Mundy recently died as well).

La Jicarita will follow up this article with a more in-depth look at the history of land tenure in the former Tierra Amarilla land grant.

Acequias de la Sierra

By Mark Schiller

One of the Acequias de La Sierra ditches, which divert water from the west side of the Jicarita watershed (Peñasco) to the east side of the watershed (Mora), recently completed a new diversion, renewing parciantes' interest in the history of this unique trans-basin system.

According to a 1985 article by historian Anselmo F. Arellano, "Acequias de la Sierra and Early Agriculture of the Mora Valley," published by the Center for Land Grant Studies, the Mora Valley, was first colonized in the early part of the 19th Century by a group of Indo-Hispano families who had formerly resided within the Pueblo of Picuris grant on the west side of the Jicarita watershed. In need of agricultural land to feed a growing population, the group of intrepid settlers, led by the soldier Antonio Olguín, made the journey over the mountain in 1816 into the remote but fertile valley.

Their efforts were initially successful, and by 1818 seventy-six families petitioned the church to establish an independent parish in San Antonio de lo de Mora. However, while the land in the valley was extremely fertile, the waters of the Mora River proved insufficient to meet the agricultural and domestic needs of the colony. As a result, Olguín (according to Arellano) "approached the Picurís Indians and successfully requested permission to take some pueblo water from the high mountain valleys and the crest of the Jicarilla [Jicarita] Mountain." Whether the Pueblo actually gave its permission for this diversion is questionable, and that issue will be addressed later in this article. Regardless of the politics involved, however, the engineering feat of diverting the waters of the middle tributary of the Rio Pueblo from the west side of the Jicarita watershed to the east side, accomplished with only primitive tools, is staggering. Arellano speculates that the initial diversion canal was constructed before 1832, when it is known that the colony was abandoned due to the attacks of nomadic tribes.

The Mora Valley was subsequently resettled in 1835 and a formal grant issued in October of that year by Mexican Governor Albino Pérez. Once again, the population burgeoned, spawning new settlements and placing increased demands on the limited water supply. In an effort to meet those needs, the residents of Chacón began construction of a second diversion from the northern branch of the Rio Pueblo that was completed in 1865. A third ditch, diverting the waters of the southern branch of the Rio Pueblo, was begun in 1879 and was delivering water to the community of Agua Negra (Holman) by 1882.

There is no mention in Arellano's article of permission being sought from or granted by the Pueblo of Picuris for either of these later diversions. While all three of these diversions are testament to the Mora Valley settlers' ingenuity and perspicacity, the question remains whether the diversions were legal. In point of fact, Picuris Governor Juan Pando, through the Pueblo's attorney S.M. Barnes, filed suit in New Mexico Territorial District Court in 1882 seeking a perpetual injunction to stop the diversion of water from the southern branch of the Rio Pueblo and naming twenty-three residents from the community of Agua Negra (Holman) as defendants. In that suit Barnes asserted that Pueblo members "have always been entitled to the full free and undisturbed possession of all the water of said streams and branches and said main stream the Rio Pueblo that naturally flowed to, through and upon their said land for domestic and all other uses in supplying their gardens and fields and for the purpose of sustaining their numerous animals . . . and they have enjoyed said water . . . as they had the lawful right to until the interferences hereinafter mentioned."

The suit not only sought to enjoin the diversion from the river's southern branch but went on to state: "that [for] many years since . . . the people of the County of Mora took and diverted the water from the middle branch of said Rio Pueblo and still continue to the use of the same and that they also some fifteen or twenty years ago took and converted the water from and of the northern branch of said Rio Pueblo to their own use contrary in both instances to law and good conscience." The suit noted that the two previous diversions had also been protested, but that the Pueblo's "objections were wholly disregarded," thus bringing into question Arellano's claim that Olguín received permission from the Pueblo for the original diversion. Moreover, the suit claimed that the named defendants from Agua Negra "combined and confederated with others whose names . . . are unknown, but whose names, when discovered, your orators [Picuris Pueblo] pray that they may be at liberty to insert herein with apt words to charge them as parties, defendants hereto . . ." The suit also asserted that the impairment of the Pueblo's water rights has "lessened the value of their said land grant and . . . diminished largely the amount of tillable land . . . used by them."

For unknown reasons, however, the Pueblo did not pursue the law suit and three year later in an ironic twist emblematic of New Mexico's schizophrenic colonialist history, the named defendants, now represented by Thomas B. Catron, the godfather of New Mexico's usurious land speculators, who by this time had secured an interest in the Mora land grant, successfully sought the dismissal of the suit "for want of prosecution." While the suit was dismissed, it was dismissed without prejudice, meaning the Pueblo was free to pursue their complaint in the future. As a result, the acequias of the Mora Valley continue to divert water from the Rio Pueblo, which in times of shortage may affect the amount of water available to Picuris Pueblo and other Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo dependent acequia communities. La Jicarita News will write a follow-up article regarding this issue after we complete more research.



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