U.S. House passes Northern N.M. settlement bills

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By Special to the Monitor

ALBUQUERQUE — Two bills that would resolve decades-long water disputes in north-central New Mexico have passed the U.S. House, Rep. Ben Ray Luján said Thursday.

The Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement Act and the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act are based on years of negotiations between American Indian leaders and local, state and federal officials. The court cases that started them were filed in the 1960s.

The settlements would assure water resources for the Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Tesuque and Taos pueblos, while providing for the water needs of non-Indian interests in the region.

The bills would authorize the secretary of the Interior to approve the settlement of water rights claims and to develop water infrastructure in the Rio Grande Basin.

The Aamodt settlement calls for the construction of a regional water system in Santa Fe County that would benefit the pueblos and their neighbors.

DL Sanders, chief counsel for the State Engineer’s Office, said the federal government would pay $169 million in the Aamodt settlement for the regional water system’s construction. The state, Santa Fe County and the city of Santa Fe would pay about $117 million, he said.

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