Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Open letter to NM Gov. Susana Martinez on AWSA projects and protection of true stakeholders

June 21, 2011

Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Subject:  AWSA projects and protection of true stakeholders

Dear Governor Martinez:

The Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) has been authorized by the state of New Mexico to assume responsibility for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and replacement of projects for waters designated available by the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA).  To that end, people of the four counties of southwestern New Mexico for which the AWSA waters are available have been working since 2004 to develop projects to submit to ISC. 

It is the ISC’s mandate to apply the best available science to consideration of these projects, taking into account the ecological impacts of the proposed water uses while also considering the historic uses of and future demands for water in the Gila Basin, and the traditions, cultures and customs affecting those uses.

Unfortunately, what is and should be a relatively straightforward legal process has been distorted beyond functionality by non-stakeholders who were given “rights” to participate in the process by your predecessor.  Mr. Richardson added a level of bureaucracy through the creation of a stakeholders group that included individuals who are not water rights holders and who therefore cannot be directly impacted by AWSA waters decisions.  AWSA project process development has operated through stakeholder group consensus, thereby effectively providing the non-stakeholders with veto power.  These non-stakeholders were further aided by Richardson’s environmentalist-group-supported declaration that AWSA projects could not include planning or consideration of construction of dams on the Gila and San Francisco Rivers.  Since the only realistic way to have water to use during dry times of the year without cutting into downstream flow is to trap and retain it during times of extreme flow, such as during flood or snow melt, Richardson essentially blocked the most logical and potentially viable projects that could be submitted to ISC for consideration. 

The intent of the AWSA was to address the legitimate water use needs of the four county area of New Mexico.  The people who hold existing water rights are the true stakeholders impacted by the ISC’s choice of projects, however these very people for whom the water was intended have to compete with non-stakeholders for projects, and ultimately for the water needed by water rights holders to live and thrive today and in the future.

The AWSA is not about creating healthy watersheds so as to possibly produce more water or about conserving water, as important as these issues are.  AWSA is solely about finding beneficial uses for 14,000 acre feet of water annually.  It is essentially a “use it or lose it” proposition with a 2014 deadline.  Consensus veto power and non-stakeholder opinion have no place in ISC's AWSA project evaluation or decisions.

Governor Martinez, with your support the ISC can make wise decisions about projects for the stakeholders of the four county area.  I strongly urge you to instruct the ISC to resist the pressures of non-stakeholders with respect to ASWA waters.  Furthermore, I urge you to instruct the ISC to not consider proposals submitted by the US Forest Service, no matter the merit of the projects, given that the AWSA water was meant for New Mexico water users, not federal agencies.

Thank you for consideration of my comments.
Lif Strand
Quemado, NM

Estevan Lopez, ISC Director
Jim Dunlap, ISC Chairman
John D'Antonio, State Engineer
Craig Roepke, ISC Deputy Director

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