A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Think Global - Run for the Border, It Isn't Far Away By Pat D'Andrea
Puntos de Vista: Got Imperialism? By Chellis Glendinning
New Mexico Acequia Association Meets to Analyze Water Bills By Kay Matthews
Editorial By Mark Schiller
"I like to use the word maintain rather than preserve when I'm talking about acequias," Estevan Arellano said at the New Mexico Acequia Commission workshop on November 20. "The word preserve has the connotation that something is at an end." The two-day workshop certainly stressed that acequias are not "at an end" but that we must all work hard to maintain their viability as outside forces seek control (see Editorial, page 5). Wilfred Gutierrez, New Mexico Acequia Commissioner, warned that development may well be "killing the goose that laid the golden egg" if the culture and traditions that support the tourist economy are destroyed.
Sponsored in conjunction with the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, the State Engineer's Office, and Northern New Mexico Community College, the two-day workshop included water conservation issues, acequia rehabilitation and financing, and a tour of the Velarde Community Ditch Project. José Rivera, author of the newly published Acequia Culture - Water, Land, and Community in the Southwest (see Announcements, page 2), delivered the keynote speech in which he emphasized the democratic nature of acequias and their contribution to both community and conservation. He also pointed out that New Mexico will soon be the second-fastest growing state in the union (there may well be 650,000 more people in the next 15-17 years) and tremendous pressure will be placed on acequias as developers and urban interests seek to transfer water for these needs.
Estevan Arellano, director of the Oñate Center, supported Rivera's comments by emphasizing that with correct historical information (he is currently researching the ordenanzas, the first acequia planning documents) and "wisdom of the land" parciantes can make la tierra more productive. He described the traditional uses of the suerte, or land between the acequia and river, as divided into four areas: altito, just below the acequia where fruit trees grow best; below that, la joya, where the most fertile land is reserved for vegetables; then las vegas, summer pasture for animals; and finally, la cienega, the wetlands next to the river. He also encouraged farmers to build up their soil, diversify their crops, experiment with different kinds of high-value crops and varieties of fruit trees, and employ terracing on sloping lands.
The Camino Real District of the Forest Service is asking for public input on a proposed thinning project in the West Entrañas Ecosystem/Restoration Management Unit near Truchas. The proposal includes thinning the understory trees to promote better growth of the remaining trees as well as native grasses, forbs and shrubs. The thinning would be followed by a prescribed burn and a reduction of the road density. Forest adjacent communities would have access to firewood, vigas and houselogs. If you have any concerns or questions about the project please call Henry Lopez or Ben Kuykendall at 587-2544.
The University of New Mexico Press recently published Acequia Culture - Water, Land, and Community in the Southwest by José Rivera, a native of Mora and currently an associate professor of public administration at the university. Rivera is a longtime acequia advocate who has worked with many northern New Mexico parciantes and acequia associations to help protect their water rights and preserve the culture the acequias sustain. In his book Rivera traces the origin of the acequia from the time of the Pueblo Indian through the hispano mexicano settlements to present day. He follows the evolution of the governing concepts that remain in place today, and emphasizes the importance of the community and conservation ethics acequias have always provided. The book is available at area bookstores, libraries, or through UNM Press.
The Forest Service has announced three alternative actions to address an unauthorized stockpile at the Franklin Minerals mica mine on Picuris Peak. The mining company is in the process of preparing a Mine Closeout and Reclamation Plan for the next 20 year period; in order for the mine to expand onto national forest land, an environmental analysis will be required. In the meantime, before a closeout plan can be approved, the trespass needs to be cleared. The Forest Service proposed action is to authorize use of 1.3 acres of federal land, citing requirements of the Mining Act of 1872. Two other alternatives include: 1) Require Franklin to move the 200,000 tons of low-grade ore, and 2) No action, allow the stockpile to remain in place until approval of the Mine Closeout and Reclamation Plan. The Forest Service believes that removing the pile will cause economic hardship for the company, and that it is reasonable to approve the stockpile and wait until action on the Mining Plan to see if eventual removal of the stockpile will be necessary. Please send your comments to Crockett Dumas at the Camino Real Ranger District, P. O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM 87553, or call 587-2255 by December 20.
Editor's note: Summo Corporation has officially abandoned its BLM mining claims in the Copper Hill area. The Taos/Rio Arriba Mining Reform Alliance (TRAMRA), while waiting for the BLM's decision on permanent withdrawal, will focus on investigating any potential impacts of the mica mine. The plan is being submitted in two phases: the already released plan requests expansion onto private lands; a subsequent plan will request expansion onto public land.
By Pat D'Andrea
The Mexico-U. S. border begins at the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo in El Paso/Ciudad Juarez and runs with the river for 1200 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. For 800 miles west of El Paso/Ciudad Juarez the border is on land, ending at the Pacific Ocean south of San Diego.
On January 1, 1995 the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect. It opened the border to goods but not to people.
One said his name was José, but I knew it wasn't and I knew why he would never tell me his real name. I'll call him "José whose name is not José."
He works from 7 in the morning to dusk. His tools are a yellow rubber child's raft with a rope tied to it, a truck tire tube with a board across it and a rope tied to one side. And his shoulders.
He is short and broad-shouldered. His face has straight edges, his eyes are large and soft, his hair is straight and black. He is wearing jeans with ragged cuffs, a clean crisp white shirt, and tennis shoes.
The other José says, when I ask . . . "¿Señor? . . ," "Just call me Señor José" and then he smiles. Like the first José, whose name is not José, Señor José has straight black hair and a sculpted face. His eyes, however, are small, dark and piercing over a hawk nose. They miss nothing. His tools are mechanical - a tractor, a truck, a harvester.
José whose name is not José lives in a world of concrete-lined ditches, chain-link fences topped with razor wire, traffic blare, and police cars.
Señor José lives with green - sorghum, corn, weeds - and grasshoppers, leaf-eaters, acequias, and drought. There is no traffic blare in his days, just silence except for insect chatter. There is plenty of time to search the blue bowl of sky for signs of rain, and there are none.
One José has a business based on the closed border - closed to people, not to money. The other needs a border open to corn.
José whose name is not José works as a pasamojado (coyote, patero, pollero, there are many names for his job, which is to take people across the Mexico-U. S. border into the United States). His workplace is under the Puente Negro on the Rio Bravo between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. His customers? "Maids," he says, "they need to be at work in El Paso by 8 in the morning. So I'm here every morning, and have been for 10 years. No vacations." Just maids? "Oh no, families, too. Sometimes people want to go shopping, get ice cream, go visit Ascarate Park, see the cousins, go to a wedding, you know. But mostly they're maids. I know them, they know me."
Señor José belongs to an agricultural cooperative, an ejido, near Ciudad Mier, about 800 miles downstream from Ciudad Juarez. He talks about the guerra de hambre, the famine war he says the federal government of Mexico is waging against the ejido farmers.
There are 28,000 ejidos and agrarian communities in Mexico today that cover 49% of Mexico's total land area, though much of their land is not arable and only a small portion is irrigated. At least 15 million people depend on the ejidos, part of the land reform mandated by the 1917 Constitution at the end of Mexico's bloody revolution, when Emiliano Zapata's rallying cry "Tierra o Muerte" echoed throughout the country.
In late 1991 Salinas de Gortari, then President of Mexico, forced a change in Article 27 of the constitution and declared that land reform was complete. Until then ejidos were guaranteed their integrity and, theoretically at least, supported by government programs for credit, disaster relief, and in other ways.
Señor José is pessimistic. As the move to free trade gathered momentum, the sorghum and other grain crops he and his fellow ejidatarios grew became less and less valuable as exports, the corn and other agro products coming from huge acreages in the U. S. and marketed by companies like Archer Daniels Midland ("supermarket to the world") have begun to dominate the Mexican market. As the drought worsened in northern Mexico and big ranchers liquidated their herds, there was less and less demand for feed crops from the ejidos. (The Chairman of Archer Daniels Midland is Dwayne O. Andreas, whose annual compensation in 1998 is listed as $3,648,652.)
"There's no future here," he says. "Families are already leaving, going to the factories - you know they make cars now in Reynosa, you can get work there very fast, but there's no place to live, no clean water, it's hard."
General Motors is now one of the largest private-sector employers in Mexico. People leaving the land go to work in the assembly lines. There is a minimum 30% turnover, factories hang out permanent banners advertising jobs. Meanwhile, Mexico is now an importer of food, after years of cries for food sovereignty.
This is the new world order. Señor José does not look like a desperate man, but he is.
On August 20, 1998 at a trailer park in Taos behind the Wal-Mart, INS agents and local police knock on doors, check papers, arrest and deport sixteen people (the landlords then declared those people's homes abandoned and threw out their belongings). The deportees are taken to El Paso.
Meanwhile, at the exit doors of the Wal-Mart, INS agents and local police ask people to show their identification and prove they are citizens or legal residents.
In mid-September INS agents conduct a workplace raid at the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque. At least 20 workers are deported, including a woman who is a legal permanent resident of the U. S. and had made the mistake of leaving her papers at home. She spends several days in detention in the corralon in El Paso.
In Santa Fe, workplace raids at hotels and restaurants are common. INS agents may show up at apartment complexes and knock on doors, ask for papers, deport you if you don't have them.
We live on the border, not as far as we might think from the two Josés.
By Chellis Glendinning
Editor's note: This article first appeared in Orion Afield, a national magazine for environmental activists. Glendinning, who lives in Chimayó, wrote it to encourage a more comprehensive politic among environmentalists.
Most Americans think of empire as an archaic notion left over from the heady days of Britain's India. A few folks remember it from the 1960s when the impassioned cry from college campuses was to end American imperialism in Southeast Asia. But then awareness faded, victim to conscious strategies of political diversion and the business-as-usual of commercial trivialization.
Today, thanks to activists in the Third World, the concept is making a comeback as a relevant description of the global economy. The reality of imperialism, of course, never went away. Cultural critic Edward Said defines it as "thinking about, settling on, controlling land that you do not possess, that is distant, that is lived on and owned by others." Its current version is the General-Agreement-on-Tariffs-and-Trade-sanctioned takeover of land, peoples, and nature's bounty via transnational corporations.
Living in a place often described as Third World - a land-based Chicano village amid Native pueblos in northern New Mexico - is a constant lesson in the course of study political writer Michael Parenti calls "Imperialism 101": the ecological and social disjunctures wrought by U. S. colonization - namely the stealing of lands and forced entry into the cash economy - are still unfolding. GATT's urbanity and hypertourism are slapped on top of these still-festering wounds; once-landed peoples fall into poverty, their only job opportunities to build faux haciendas for jet-setters or broom down the halls of the bomb labs; the mountains are laid bare to copper mining, the forests to clearcutting, the rivers to diversion for computer manufacturing; and once-vibrant nature-based cultures are swallowed up into Baywatch-Nike consumerism.
Given imperialism's ruination of both land and community, what is the responsibility of the environmental movement? Interestingly, the birth of today's environmental movement coincided with the rise of identity politics. Health-care consumers, farmers, gays and lesbians - each group expressed the long-ignored needs of its constituents, but only its constituents. Indeed the environmental movement followed suit, working to prevent the toxic onslaught and protect nature. Like most brands of single-focus identification, it was an easy politic. Not easy to win, but easy to hold in one's mind.
Now, as we are becoming aware of the post-World War II shenanigans of the banking and corporate elites in the construction of the global economy, it is becoming apparent that we must move beyond the narrow focus of identity politics toward a comprehensive and complex vision of a truly post-colonial world, a world in which trade is lateral, not top-down, and local lands and communities are restored to sustainability.
I am thinking now of Stephanie Mills' marvelous book title: Whatever Happened to Ecology? What did happen? The word "ecology" is far more comprehensive than "environment," encompassing nature's unfathomable complexities of tree, bug, rain, and people. The task is not merely to prevent the toxic onslaught and protect the natural world. It is also to break down the planet-scale behemoth called globalization and, in the process, address the all-important issue of life's survival. This insight leads us to the much-publicized clash between two particularly pained groups: environmentalists and the environmental-justice community, fighters for "pure wilderness" versus residents of "inhabited wilderness," those with the earth on their minds and those wrestling with race and class and gender. The skirmishes between them have been repeated in the Philippines over shrimp fishing, at the Mexico-U. S. border over immigration, and on public lands where indigenous people meet conservation activists. To bring such fractured efforts together is not an easy politic. Not easy to do, and not easy to hold in one's mind. But necessary.
I would, in closing, praise the genius of the bioregional movement. Bioregionalism is a call for democracy in place. It is an interweaving of wilderness with sustainability, a return to the ecology of nature-based community, decentralization, sovereignty, survival. But allow me not just to praise bioregionalism as it is currently conceived. Let me add something I have learned by living in a place so blatantly colonized. Let us consider a "historically sensitive bioregionalism" in which the ecological and social injustices of the past are given focus in the rebuilding of the human-nature relationship; in which race, class, and gender are considered alongside endangered species, the ozone layer, and climate change. I thank the folks in my village for this comprehensive and complex insight. They know firsthand that imperialism denudes both land and community - and that healing must address the restoration of both, by both, for both.
Española businessman Richard Cook is currently fighting the Rio Arriba County Commission, San Juan Pueblo, the State Land Office, the New Mexico Environment Department, and if Cerrillos residents have anything to say about it, the Santa Fe County Commission. All of these battles stem from violations related to his gravel mining operations in the villages of El Guique, Velarde, and Cerrillos.
photo by Eric Shultz
The El Guique operation is being sued by the Rio Arriba County Commission for not seeking regulatory permits from the county for the mine. Cook claims the mine is older than the regulations and therefore exempt. In a related matter, San Juan Pueblo has refused to allow trucks carrying gravel from the El Guique mine to use a state road that crosses Pueblo land because the loaded In Velarde, Cook is under fire from the State Land Office and the New Mexico Environment Department. Land Commissioner Ray Powell recently sent a letter to Cook claiming he is responsible for " . . . the excavation of a large channel and removal of materials from [state] trust lands." Powell told Cook that the land office will repair the arroyo and bill Cook for the work. He also informed Velarde residents downstream from the mine site that " . . . they might be at risk if there is a large volume of water flowing down the arroyo or river." The New Mexico Environment Department has put Cook on notice that it intends to fine him $70,000 for what it claims was improper disposal of solid waste at the Velarde mine site. Cook has responded that his crews only placed some trees in the mine's pit, but area residents say the crews dumped "industrial waste."
In Cerrillos, villagers claim Cook is not adhering to county regulations for his gravel operation in that village. Many residents are furious that the county hasn't done anything about citing Cook for violations which include exceeding the speed limit, exceeding the three-acre limit on the mining operation, and hauling illegally on weekends. They further claim, like the residents of El Guique and Velarde, that these operations are having a devastating effect upon their community and should be relocated to more remote sites that won't impact residential areas.
The Rio Arriba County Commission has been working with state and federal agencies to find alternative sites for extractive industries that impact residential areas. In a related matter, Antonio "Ike" DeVargas has informed La Jicarita that Rio Arriba County will be holding a series of meetings to address issues related to growth and development which are impacting county villages. The first three meetings will be held at the Oñate Center and will focus on the villages of Dixon, Velarde, and Alcalde.
By Kay Matthews
Members of the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) attended the Water and Natural Resources Committee hearings in Santa Fe where bills related to acequia issues were presented to the committee. Subsequent to the hearings, the NMAA sponsored a forum for parciantes and northern New Mexico water law experts to analyze the bills and assess their potential impacts to our acequia systems.
Although this year no instream flow bill was presented for committee consideration, Ron Gardiner of Rio Grande Restoration presented a paper to the committee urging the legislators to amend certain state statutes to include language his group feels is supportive of instream flow (an instream flow bill can still appear at the legislative session without prior committee hearing). The thrust of his paper, however, was to argue that water be commodified and sold as a free-market right and applied to instream flow: "We encourage our state to step up to its free market ethic and afford our rivers the same economic ability as any other beneficial use, to be transferred to its place of purpose."
He went on to urge the legislature to provide an instream water right definition, despite the Attorney General's opinion rendered last year that under current law instream flow can be considered a beneficial use. That opinion basically sets up the scenario whereby applications can be made to the state engineer requesting instream flow use, and permission can be granted based upon current standards and guidelines. During the question and answer period Gardiner made his intentions clear by saying that instream flow advocates need to be "shrewd" in making sure they buy senior priority water rights. The governor's blue ribbon task force on instream flow has apparently made certain recommendations to the governor regarding instream flow legislation, but it remains to be seen if he will introduce anything this session. Everyone agreed it was important to have acequia representation on the task force.
The legislative committee did consider "The Water Conservation Act" which would require the state engineer to incorporate water conservation into the evaluation of water rights applications, water planning, permits, etc. This is the same bill that was introduced last year but failed to pass. The NMAA passed a resolution opposed to that bill because it could separate a parciante's water right from the collective right of the acequia to divert sufficient water to the parciante's land. The bill could actually work as a "dis-incentive" to parciantes to conserve water. Pauline Gubbels, the Albuquerque legislator who is carrying the bill, has not decided whether she will introduce it, as the state engineer, author of the original bill, is currently not supporting it.
Two water banking bills were also brought up before the committee. The "long" version, which would establish a new central agency to govern a state-wide water banking program, raised many questions and failed to get committee recommendation. This bill was introduced last year as well and acequia advocates testified that water banking should be administered at the local level, within acequia associations and watersheds. The "short" version of the bill does not provide for a banking agency but does specify that a banking program would protect against forfeiture of rights. The committee endorsed the concept of a banking program (guidelines have already been set up by the Taos Valley Acequia Association in conjunction with the state engineer, see November issue of La Jicarita), but the NMAA feels that before any banking bill passes, parciantes need to work with the state engineer on defining water banking, setting regulations, and determining if temporary transfers now allowed are adequate to conserve water and protect parciantes from forfeiture. In general, the association agreed that there needs to be more research and critical analysis of how water conservation, banking and instream flow fit together and how they can impact the integrity of acequias. A December meeting was scheduled to continue this dialogue.
The State Engineer's Office is requesting a 67% increase in budget for next year to address its backlog of water transfer protests, computerization process, and ability to deal with increasingly complex state and federal management of water. During the campaign for governor, Martin Chávez announced that if elected one of his first acts as governor would be to fire State Engineer Tom Turney because of the agency's backlog and so-called inadequacies. It will be interesting to see if newly re-elected Governor Gary Johnson supports his state engineer's request to improve services. During the debate on the Ground Water Storage and Recovery Act, which would allow entities to store surface water in ground water aquifers (for example, the city of Albuquerque could inject its San Juan/Chama surface water into its underground aquifer), State Engineer Turney said the idea was all well and good but under his current budget there was no way his office could handle the kind of complex and lengthy permitting processes necessary to address this.
By Mark Schiller
In last month's editorial Kay touched briefly on " . . . the latest scheme to transfer water from the San Luis Valley to Denver." In this editorial I'd like to discuss this "scheme", not only because it is a harbinger of the threats northern New Mexico water rights owners are going to be faced with in the future, but the outcome of this "scheme" may very well affect New Mexico water law with regard to the Rio Grande Compact (the set of interstate and international agreements governing distribution of Rio Grande water between Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Mexico).
The San Luis Valley is geologically divided into two sections by a wall of impermeable rock running east and west, roughly through the middle of the valley near the towns of Center and Hooper. Water on the south side of the subterranean barrier flows into the Rio Grande; water on the north side is trapped in what geologists term a "closed basin." According to articles written by Ed Quillen for his Colorado Central Magazine, " . . . conservative estimates suggest that there are several billion acre feet of water . . . " (one acre foot equals approximately 330,000 gallons) trapped deep beneath the surface. Furthermore, scientists claim it receives an additional million acre feet per year from run-off.
The state of Colorado is currently appropriating approximately 40,000 acre feet of this water per year through its federally and state funded Closed Basin Project to meet Colorado's obligation to deliver approximately 330,000 acre feet to New Mexico via the Rio Grande. This still leaves hundreds of thousands of acre feet of recharge water which, according to Colorado law, may be unappropriated (whether this water is actually unappropriated will undoubtedly be contested in court once applications for wells to tap the water are filed).
Enter Gary Boyce, a pistol-toting, Humvee-driving, hand-tooled, knee-high cowboy boot-wearing former San Luis Valley resident who went to California as a young man and came back a millionaire. Boyce bought the 100,000-acre Baca Ranch (located near the town of Crestone) from Canadian oil millionaire Maurice Strong. Strong, through his American Water Development Inc., had, during the mid- to late 80s, tried to obtain well permits to pump 200,000 acre feet of water per year to the thirsty front range city of Denver (according to Quillen, the front range cities are one of the fastest growing areas in the country, like Albuquerque, and every seven new people represent another acre foot of water needed). Strong's efforts were defeated by a coalition of farmers, ranchers, and environmentalists who feared pumping that much water out of the closed basin could negatively impact existing wells, riparian areas, and wildlife. Boyce, therefore, in an attempt to avoid Strong's pitfalls, was intent upon "leveling the playing field" before filing applications to appropriate closed basin water beneath his ranch. By employing paid circulators, he was able to get two state constitutional amendments on the November ballot aimed at breaking the conservation district which had defeated Strong. Through the determined efforts of the conservation district both of these amendments were soundly defeated.
But of course, the story doesn't end there. In fact, for New Mexicans, it's just beginning. Enter our old friends the Forest Guardians. This environmental group recently filed notice of intent to sue state and federal agencies in an effort to dismantle the Rio Grande Compact. The terms of the compact, they claim, unfairly favor agricultural water users and prevent the state from adhering to federal environmental laws including the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. If Forest Guardians are successful in pursuing this suit, it could force agricultural water users to limit their diversion of water in order to meet federal environmental requirements.
Remember, now, that Colorado is already delivering 40,000 acre feet of water to New Mexico via the previously mentioned Closed Basin Project. This facility has a capacity to deliver 100,000 acre feet. Gary Boyce, who is certainly nobody's fool, saw the possibility to use the Closed Basin Project's cheap and available plumbing to sell some of the water beneath his ranch to New Mexico to meet their federal environmental law requirements (at $5,000 to $10,000 per acre foot, 60,000 acre feet equals between $300 million and $600 million). Boyce, therefore, realizing he and Forest Guardians had a common goal, made contributions to the environmental group through his Stockman's Water Company. When La Jicarita questioned Boyce about the reason for these contributions, he claimed Forest Guardians " . . . were raising the right issues" and he wanted to help "underwrite their research." He refused to disclose the amount of his contributions.
So there you have it. This is what the future holds for southern Colorado and northern New Mexico (for all the western states, for that matter): developmental, environmental, and recreational groups joining forces to appropriate agricultural water to promote their own agendas. Read it and weep.
Special thanks to Ed Quillen for his help.
Copyright 1996-2000 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.