Good news for NM water
I'm pleased to report that the Office of the State Engineer once again rejected a speculative water proposal to pump billions of gallons from the aquifer below the Plains of San Agustin in western New Mexico.
I remember the first time I drove west of Magdalena and laid eyes on this vast expanse of grasslands. A couple winters ago, I took my son Carter on an elk hunt in the Continental Divide Wilderness Study Area where the views stretch out for miles above the surrounding plains. This area of our state is a paradise.
Italian billionaire Bruno Modena's proposal to pump 17 billion gallons of groundwater from the aquifer annually and construct a pipeline to transport the water far away from Catron County threatened this incredible landscape and locals' traditional way of life. Earlier this year, I wrote an op-ed in the Socorro El Defensor Chieftain and Catron Courier about what this water grab would mean for local residents and all of us who love the public lands and wildlife supported by the pristine aquifer under the Plains.
I also wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to ask why President Trump's transition team included the Augustin Plains Ranch water speculation proposal on a list of 50 major infrastructure priorities. Both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations filed formal protests against this proposal because of potential damaging impacts on water and wildlife resources. Given the potentially devastating impacts of this water speculation project to rural communities in New Mexico, I strongly urged Secretary Zinke to renew the department's longstanding objections.
I'm proud of all the New Mexicans who made their voices heard in calling for the State Engineer's Office to reject Mr. Modena's third application in less than 10 years. Special recognition is due to local rancher Carol Pittman who has spent years keeping residents of Catron and Socorro counties informed about this threat through the San Augustin Water Report.
The fight is not over yet. There is still an appeal process and the proponents of this project have deep pockets. But please know that I will continue to stand with you in fighting for responsible, cost effective, science-based solutions to managing New Mexico's water.
United States Senator