Board of Directors Issues Response to Recent WEG Lawsuit
In an Editorial to the Albuquerque Journal, the Chairman of the Board of Directors outlined the District position on the recent lawsuit filed by the WildEarth Guardians against the State Engineer and naming the MRGCD as a party to the suit.
Following consultation with the MRGCD Water Attorney, Chairman Derrick J. Lente signed the OP/ED piece stating the District Position.
The Editorial, as it appeared in the Albuquerque Journal can be found at this link or embedded below.
Questions regarding the editorial should be directed to the General Office at 505-247-0234.
Suit aimed at headlines, not solutions
By Derrick J. Lente / Chairman Of The Board, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District
Sunday, April 3rd, 2016
As the chairman of the board of directors, I speak for all of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District when I say it’s high time that the truth regarding the recent suit filed by the WildEarth Guardians is brought to the public’s attention.
This suit was filed solely to grab headlines and donor support, and is not founded in fact within New Mexico’s water laws as it pertains to the MRGCD.
The public has a right to hear the full story from the perspective of the MRGCD.
Since its inception in 1925 under the Conservancy Act, a New Mexico statute authorizing its formation, the MRGCD has been providing important benefits that include agricultural crops that feed people, as well as livestock.
This act provides broad authority to the MRGCD to deliver long-held water rights to lands, including the lands of the six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos, without the requirement of the traditional procedures used for adjudication.
WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit against the New Mexico state engineer, and by extension the MRGCD and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, requires the state engineer to enforce proof of beneficial use in the middle Rio Grande.
MRGCD attorneys say this suit is baseless, poorly constructed, and illustrates that WildEarth Guardians does not understand the hydrology and the institutional and legal framework that guides the management and uses of water in the basin.
In 1995, when the silvery minnow was listed under the Endangered Species Act, an agreement was reached to form the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program to preserve the current and future water uses while protecting the silvery minnow and its habitat. MRGCD is a key participant in the program and has been at the table since 2002 with 15 other members working hard to meet and exceed the program goals.
Like all Endangered Species Act-driven processes, most entities meet first to protect their special interests and second, to follow a solutions-driven process to provide certainty and improve the environment for all listed species.
WildEarth Guardians, on the other hand, rejects the notion that coming to the table would help advance productive discussions to improve the program. Instead, WildEarth Guardians opts to force agencies to divert valuable resources toward frivolous, ill-conceived lawsuits that do nothing to advance what can be done within the scope of available resources, including water.
In the view of WildEarth Guardians, the river should get more than half of the flows it already naturally consumes and further reduce water for food production and other benefits irrigation has provided in this valley for more than 200 years.
The WildEarth Guardians approach has been, and still remains, focused on headline-grabbing lawsuits that will do little in achieving the in-river goals they purport to care about.
Further, WildEarth Guardians naively filed for unappropriated water rights (in an over-appropriated basin) that may somehow magically appear as a result of this lawsuit. Sorry to say lawsuits do not create new water.
The bottom line is the MRGCD has, and will continue to work hard to improve environmental conditions within the middle Rio Grande valley through its dedicated and proactive participation within the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program that will also protect our water for growing locally produced food and other highly valued uses.
WildEarth Guardians chooses another path of intentional obstruction through naive and illogical legal actions that are self-serving under the guise of what they believe is “best” for all of us.
The MRGCD, and its board of directors, assures its constituents that this recent suit by WildEarth Guardians will not impede its progress and the MRGCD will fight this and other future actions that threaten our collective water future while continuing to work with proactive organizations toward improvement of the ecosystem within the middle Rio Grande.
Water Begins to Flow in Canals
The MRGCD began charging its irrigation system on Tuesday, March 1 for the start of the 2016 season.
The District is diverting water at the Isleta Diversion structure to charge the Belen and Socorro Divisions. Diversions will begin at the Angostura structure on March 2 to flush out the Albuquerque Division. The Cochiti Division will come online in mid-March.
Irrigation can be scheduled with ISO (Ditch Riders).
Questions should be directed to your ISO or to the MRGCD General Office at 505-247-0234.
Water Bank Lease Rates and Fees Set for 2016
The MRGCD Board of Directors has established the Water Bank administrative fee, and lease and water service charge rates for calendar year 2016.
On January 11, 2016 the board voted to continue the administrative fee of $100 and the lease rate of $50 per acre but raised the water service charge per acre to $34.
All rates are effective immediately.
For complete information on the Water Bank and rates associated with it, click here.
To read Resolution M-01-11-16-116.4, adoption of Water Bank rates and fees for 2016, click here.
Board of Directors Hears Presentation on Alameda Drain Trail Project
Bernaillo County representatives presented the master plan for the proposed Alameda Drain Trail Project to the MRGCD Board at its regularly scheduled meeting on December 14, 2015.
The plan outlines changes to the Alameda Drain area that could include trails, water areas for recreational enjoyment and even the possibility of agricultural areas that could include edible wild plants and fruit trees.
The plan is the work of Bernalillo County, the MRGCD, the Albuquerque Metropolitan Flood Control Authority and the City of Albuquerque.
If you would like more information on the Alameda Drain Trail Project, click here.
MRGCD Board Member Addresses Senate Committee in Washington, D.C.
Hearing testimony on drought and water management in the western United States, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources heard from the Vice Chairman of the MRGCD Board of Directors.
At the hearing, Board Chairman. Derrick Lente and CEO, Mike Hamman accompanied Director, Adrian Oglesby as he told the committee that the drought has eased in parts of New Mexico and that water agencies are now working together to make strides on stretching irrigation water in the Land of Enchantment. Oglesby also told the committee that more must be done to help the farmers and save endangered species in the middle Rio Grande valley.
Director Oglesby's full testimony to the Senate Committee can be heard HERE.
Federal Judge Rules in Favor of MRGCD in Silvery Minnow Case
An Endangered Species Act lawsuit filed by the WildEarth Guardians (WEG) against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alleging that those agencies were not consulting with regard to actions needed to avoid jeopardy to the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow (RGSM). A motion to dismiss by the agencies has been ruled upon by United States District Judge, Robert Brack.
The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) joined the lawsuit as an intervenor when WEG claimed in its suit that the BOR should be regulating the MRGCD when it came to water delivery to farmers in the middle Rio Grande valley.
“The Federal Judge in this case recognized that the Conservancy District is doing its job in accordance with all laws and regulations.” says MRGCD CEO/Chief Engineer Mike Hamman. “The District will continue to work with all partner agencies in an attempt to secure the future of the Minnow while continuing our mission of supplying water to our irrigators.”
Judge Brack also ruled that how Federal agencies exercise their discretion in developing a biological assessment with regard to species management of the RGSM was not something over which the Federal Court has jurisdiction. The result was to dismiss those aspects of the case having to do with delivery of water by the MRGCD to irrigators.
The judge did, however, refuse to dismiss those aspects of the case relating to actions of the Federal agencies in implementing an existing biological opinion from 2003. Those issues will likely be moot because a new biological opinion will be issued in early 2016. The judge also refused to dismiss WEG’s claims that the Corps of Engineers is violating the ESA by not consulting on its own water operations.
Read the full versions of the court ruling below.
WEG vs USBOR, USACE, MRGCD - Document 69
WEG vs USBOR, USACE, MRGCD - Document 70
The Board of Directors approved Resolution M-07-13-15-139 on Monday, July 13, 2015 at its regularly scheduled meeting.
The Resolution adopts additional and offsetting measures and conservation measures for inclusion in the 2015 Biological Assessment re-submittal.