Presentation to Interim Legislative Committee on Water and Natural Resources
by Eileen Dodds and Anita Hand-Gutierrez
October 19, 2010
We’re here to express our concern for the proposed water mining of the San Augustin Plains by a foreign entity for profit, and by extension, what that approval could mean to the State of New Mexico. As you’re aware, there’s a petition at the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) to permit the drilling of 37 large-bore wells to a depth of at least 3000 feet, and mine 54,000 acre feet of water annually from the San Augustin Plains. 54,000a.f.equates to l7.6 BlLLION gallons of water. Annually. Until it’s gone….
To put that in perspective, according to figures supplied by the Albuquerque Water Dept., 2008 usage for Albuquerque and greater Bernalillo County was 32.3 BB gallons, serving a population of 550,000. This means that over 1/2 of the annual usage of all of Albuquerque will be mined from the deep aquifer in Catron and Socorro counties for the application’s stated purpose of “providing water by pipeline to supplement or offset the effects of existing usage, and any new usage, thereby reducing the current stress on the Rio Grande Basin in New Mexico”.
For monetary consideration, their plan is to send this water down the Rio Grande to Texas to meet Compact requirements.
Upon filing this application, and thru the amended process, almost 1000 people and organizations in Catron and Socorro Counties filed formal protests with the OSE–the largest ever received by that office.
Protestants include the Catron and Socorro County Commissions, Socorro Soil and Water Conservation District, State of NM Game and Fish Dept., the Interstate Stream Commission, Divisions of the US Depts. of the lnterior and Agriculture, the Navajo Nation Dept. of Justice, several Native American pueblos including Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni, the Univ. of New Mexico, the Nat’l Radio Astronomy Observatory, and a multitude of individual landowners.
Today, approx. 250 protesters remain to be heard by the OSE, after that office required a $25.00 fee from each party requesting to be heard. The OSE raised over $6000………. .. .
Catron and Socorro Counties won’t survive the mining of this aquifer. There’s a delicate balance between usage and supply that these counties have always nurtured for their needs. Ranching, farming, hunting, tourism and recreation, State and National forestry, wildlife habitat, and just plain quality of life will be destroyed.
Water is our life.
In 2009, hunting generated about $7 million circulating dollars in Catron County. In 2007,US Dept. of Agriculture figures indicate that ranching generated about $11 million in Catron, and about $40 million in Socorro Counties.
Socorro is also home to the State Fire Academy, which Anita and I have attended in our capacity as Datil volunteer firemen. We
can attest to the fact that people from all over the US use this excellent facility for training. They need water for training…………
According to City-Data.com, 86.4% of the farms ans ranches in Catron County are owned and operated by individuals or families. Our family roots run deep. 58% of the county’s residents have lived in the same house for 5+ years; another 21% moved from one place to another within the county. That means only about 20%of the population of Catron County has moved into the county in the
last 5 years. The newcomers, myself included, came here for a variety of reasons, but we are all here for its quality of life.
Currently, there are approx. 905 wells on the SA Plains. 14 belong to the BLM, 47 to the Nat’l Forest, and 53 to the State of New Mexico. The rest are in private hands on the ranches. These figures were derived from data supplied by the OSE.
We believe that if the drilling permits are granted to the Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC, that these 905 wells will cease to have water almost immediately. Ultimately, the rest of the wells in the region will follow suit. This excessive mining of our groundwater is not sustainable. Ranching will die. Wildlife, including the Mexican grey wolf, will die or leave. The human populations of both counties will be forced to leave, thereby reducing county and state tax revenues.
We are aware of little legislation now in NM that protects our population from water mining. ln the 20’s and 30’s, when times were vastly different and populations much smaller, our legislative ancestors negotiated Compacts with neighboring states that are no longer in the best interests of the people of NM. We are not here today to malign their decisions, nor are we here to ask you to
renegotiate those Compacts. They surely did what they thought right at the time, but they lacked the foresight as to the consequences of population growth, especially in Arizona and Texas. Now we are fighting those giants to our east and west as they again try to take advantage of the citizens of NM. Big out-of-state developers and foreign entities have come here to do the same thing.
Our protection rests in your most capable hands. We don’t believe that this generation wants to be responsible for letting our great grandchildren inherit a wasteland.
We are here today to ask you to consider the following legislation:
‘1) The protection of surface and subsurface waters within the State for our current use, and for the use of all future generations, with emphasis on long term sustainability.
2) Limit interbasin transfers.
3) Close the practice of automatic approval of the drilling of domestic wells. They should require an impact statement too.
4) Prohibit the mining of the deep aquifers (statewide) by requiring the proponents of this drilling to demonstrate that any and all waters
extracted are in excess of the area’s future needs.
5) Restrict commercial and residential development until the proponents can prove they have the long-term water allotment necessary to support growth. Prevent developers from “borrowing” for future development from today’s finite resource.
6) Consider the effect on public welfare in rural areas and protect the rights of all New Mexicans to have the sustainable use of clean water.
7) Provide oversight of the OSE process for hearing appeals from the citizens of New Mexico.
We believe that water is best kept where it is for use by the citizens of that area. This includes wildlife. This is NOT TO SAY that it can’t be removed at a REASONABLE rate, allowing for normal recharging and replenishment.
Whatever happens at the OSE regarding this matter of water mining on the San Augustin Plains, we the citizens of Catron and Socorro
Counties—–Democrats and Republicans alike—–have united in a single purpose:
Protecting our way of life.
Whatever happens, we are in it for the long haul. We believe it will end up in the courts. We believe it will become a landmark case that will eventually find its way to the United States Supreme Court.
We here today may not be alive to see the outcome, but we may well determine, by the decisions we make in the immediate future, the water usage not only for New Mexico, but for the entire western United States.
Help us. Help the citizens of the Great State of New Mexico. Protect our resources from all those who seek to use them for selfish monetary interests that aren’t conducive to conservation for future generations. Thank you for your time.