I’m baaaackkk!

It has been a while since I offered content, but I am now rested up and ready to go. First a couple of announcements.

I have joined the Board of Directors for New Mexico Open Primaries!! We have a bill in the New Mexico Legislature to allow our independent and minor party voters to participate in primary elections. Please read HB93. Please attend the first committee meeting for this bill on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 1:30 PM in room 317.

I am also working on uploading my old blog posts. Stay tuned on that.

Today, however, I have a very important update on the Regional Water System that is part of the Aamodt Water Settlement.

As most of you know, we House District 46 has a new state representative and the 2019 session is in full swing. Starting in October of last year, many of us in the Nambe/Pojoaque/Tesuque (NPT) basin were hearing rumblings of drastic changes to the budget estimates for the Regional Water System (RWS) proposed as part of the federal legislation for the Aamodt Water Settlement. Carl Trujillo and I presented an update to the community on October 30, 2018, and I contacted our federal delegation with some questions about the water system and the rumors we had heard. Here is the text of my original email written on October 24, 2018:

Per our telephone conversation, I send these questions about the Aamodt Settlement Agreement.

Background: Rumor had it that the price tag on the Regional Water System (RWS) had grown to $404M. Since the initial federal, state and county costs were tied to the original estimate and indexed to 2006 dollars, my understanding is that much more federal money will be required. According to BOR, I was not wrong about this rumor, although they seemed not to have a straight answer as to the detail of the estimate. The project manager said “it is a mess”. They also informed me that the federal delegation (BRL, Udall, Heinrich) had been briefed on this matter.

Given that, I would like the following questions answered by Ben.
1. Is the delegation supportive of more federal funds for the RWS, and if so, how much more money will be/has been requested by him or our Senators?

2. If the answer to the first question is YES, will that legislation also change the deadlines for completion for the RWS, since the original timeline has the system starting construction in fall of 2018 (now)?

3. If federal funding is increased as described above, will Santa Fe County also be responsible for a larger contribution to the funding of the RWS, and have any maintenance estimates been created in light of the extra cost? Typically the more expensive a system is to build, the more expensive it is to maintain. I would like to know if there has been any consideration given to this factor.
I did not receive a response from Congressman Lujan or Senators Udall and Heinrich on the matter. In fact, with the exception of Senator Udall’s office, none of their offices admitted to any knowledge of this new estimate at all.

On November 17, 2018, I was at the New Mexico Acequia Association’s Congreso, and I spoke to Congressman Lujan regarding the matter. He advised me that he did not have the new estimate and had no comment on it.

What I didn’t know was that on November 15th, the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) had issued its 2018 Indian Water Rights Settlement Fund Report and it contained the new budget estimates in black and white.
Here is the excerpt from pages 6-7 of the report.screenshot 2019-01-27 at 7.45.40 am

The cost was not $404M as we had thought. It was $421M. I set out to find out what this money would buy and how it would be funded. I have still had no response from Congressman Lujan or Senators Udall and Heinrich about this matter. The report, however, highlights a shortfall of >$200M for the system, and no real plans for how the $53M of “non-federal funding” will be provided.

Imagine my surprise then, when our new state representative for House District 46 presented the water system to the Democratic Socialists chapter in Santa Fe as a “debt-free project” for Santa Fe County and the Pueblos. (go to 14:50 of the video below). To my HD46 residents in Espanola, note her comments about a similar settlement coming for you!!

Because this statement seemed at the very least slightly ludicrous, I attended Andrea Romero’s coffee meetup in Pojoaque, and questioned her about the statement. I also visited our state senator, Carlos Cisneros at a townhall to ask questions.

According to senator Cisneros, the state of New Mexico will be more than happy to fund the shortfall, and $18M of funding for the water system is currently included in the 2019 budget.

I have also requested that Andrea Romero (I will follow up with senator Cisneros by email) provide some capital outlay funding to help NPT basin well owners meet the metering requirements imposed by the settlement. These water meters will cost a few hundred dollars to install, a huge financial burden on many low income residents of the Valley.

In her defense, Andrea did provide me with correspondence between our federal delegation and Bureau of Reclamation.

Letter from Lujan/Udall/Heinrich to BOR

Response from Alan Mikkelson

This exchange tells me a few things. First of all, the letter about the higher construction estimates for the RWS was written on August 30, 2018, well before I asked my questions, and certainly before I saw Congressman Lujan in November. He told me in November that he did not have those estimates. That was clearly false.
The RWS is ostensibly being built to give the residents of the Valley access to clean water and to reduce the demand on subsurface water. If this system reached all the residents of the NPT basin (it does not and will not), that would be about 10,000 men, women and children. The $421M estimate does not complete phase 3 of the RWS, which allows county residents to hook up to the system. The estimated amount completes 90% of phase 1, 60% of phase 2 and 30% of phase 3, so we can only assume the number of residents reached is much lower than the entire population. 923 well owners responded recently somewhat favorably to Santa Fe County about hooking to the RWS.

Indexed to 2024 dollars, the price tag for the RWS will reach $500M. This amount of money will buy roughly 28,000 whole home reverse osmosis systems, or roughly three times the number of men, women and children in the Valley. What part of this project makes any sense?

I encourage residents of the NPT basin to begin asking questions about the viability and the long-term impact this system will have on them.

Here are your state rep and senator’s email addresses:


Here are the local contacts for your federal representatives:

Sonya Lopez at Ben Ray Lujan’s Santa Fe office

If you would like to email them all at once, just press this link for a group email blast:
That’s all for today. More on the legislative session coming soon.