AG plays fast and loose with Southern NM water
New Mexico is suing to have less water for its upstate constituents; this is just politicized hydrology
Gary King is in the very enviable position of a blustery riverboat gambler at a big poker game. The only thing is, he’s irresponsibly gambling with someone else’s chips – the water that Southern New Mexico farm families rely on for their way of life and business.
King has filed suit against the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) attacking the “operating agreement” negotiated among the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, the El Paso County Water Improvement District #1, and the BOR. This is unfortunate because one of the key ingredients in this valid and well-thought-out compromise is the fact that it protects New Mexico farmers and their right to pump underground water during times of severe drought, just as we are currently experiencing.
That is called conjunctive management. If not for the operating agreement, you can be assured that your ability to pump and grow crops for food, feed and fiber, and potentially fuel, would be tied up in litigation and many farmers would be out of business. In the case of litigation over water such as this, the U.S. Supreme Court will end up with the case and there’s no telling what that body may do.
Alleviating the unnecessary risk involved with such litigation is the very reason farmers in this valley took control of their own destiny and constructed the operating agreement.
So, if this lawsuit is not in the best interests of Southern New Mexico and its productive farm families, why is King pursing this irresponsible course? Could it be that there is reckless gambling going on in the Casino Hydrologico? That would be a good question to ask him as he tries to sell this lawsuit via press release and too-little, too-late “public” meetings.
The cost to Southern New Mexican farmers if and when King loses his wild game of poker is lost groundwater access and lost business, neither of which anyone can afford to lose.
Clearly politically motivated
Our Rio Grande Project and Compact have worked well recently and for 100 years without the interference of a politician who only has his sites on a higher office, instead of having any real basis for interfering with and dictating our way of life. The implications of King’s philosophy in filing this recent lawsuit – that Southern New Mexico cannot adequately look out for our own interest – is offensive and condescending.
The timing of King’s complaint is clearly politically motivated. It is too late to do anything about 2011 releases from Elephant Butte, but just in time to, in the words of his late father, “Open a whole box of Pandoras.”
The bottom line is that the way the BOR has operated the Rio Grande Project does not reduce New Mexico’s water. In fact, on Jan. 1, 2012, Upstate New Mexico (above Elephant Butte Dam) will have more water than if BOR had accounted as New Mexico is insisting that they should.
New Mexico is suing to have less water for its upstate constituents. This is just politicized hydrology.
It has long been said colloquially that “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.” Our farm families and the thousands of businesses and consumers that benefit from agriculture in these green valleys will fight for their water and associated rights, and are perfectly capable of protecting themselves.
But they want a fair fight in which one of our own state officials is not using our water to irrigate his personal political career.
Esslinger is the Elephant Butte Irrigation District treasurer-manager.
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