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Our senators are right on this one

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By Ralph Damiani

New Mexico’s two U.S. senators reiterated their desire to have Congress authorize settlements for two decades-long Indian water rights cases here, despite opposition from the Bush administration.

A Senate committee heard testimony this week on the Aamodt and Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 2008, legislation introduced by Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

The measure is based on years of negotiations between Indian leaders and local, state and federal officials. It would assure water resources for a handful of pueblos, while providing for the water needs of non-Indian interests in north-central New Mexico.

It is a good deal that should be supported. But officials with the Interior Department voiced concerns about the cost of the settlements during the committee hearing.

The settlements would require the federal government to pick up about two thirds of the cost, with the state and other parties contributing the rest.

The senators argued that contributions by New Mexico and the local parties is substantially higher than amounts agreed to in other enacted settlements.


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