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New Mexico, Intel propose water rights agreement

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By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE — Computer chip manufacturer Intel Corp. and the Interstate Stream Commission have reached an agreement that would improve the company’s competitive position while ensuring that New Mexico keeps enough water in the Rio Grande for downstream users and endangered species.

The agreement was presented Wednesday during the commission’s regular meeting in Albuquerque. Commissioners decided to postpone action on the agreement until their June 16 meeting.

“I continue to think that this is a good and solid agreement, and I just want to make sure that we have a full opportunity to try to build the support that we need,” said Interstate Stream Engineer Estevan Lopez, who has been busy in recent weeks meeting with stakeholders.

Under the agreement, Intel would pay $10 million and transfer nearly 741 acre-feet per year of pre-1907 surface water rights to the Interstate Stream Commission. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough to supply about two households for a year.

In exchange, the commission would relieve Intel of certain obligations the company has under its existing groundwater pumping license to offset pumping impacts to the Rio Grande.

Intel has been able to meet its offset obligations, but company officials said Wednesday they wanted to find a way to eliminate the uncertainty of pursuing water rights that may be needed in the future.