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Newly appointed State Engineer Scott Verhines just made his first big decision, denying an application to Augustin Plains Ranch in its standoff with federal and state agencies, counties, ditch companies, environmentalists, locals, and tribes.
It’s a case all of New Mexico should be watching.
West of Datil in Catron County, promoters want to drill 37 wells 20 inches across and 3,500 feet deep, and pump 54,000 acre-feet of water a year for 300 years. That’s a breathtaking amount of water – enough to supply half of Albuquerque’s needs. In fact, the Rio Grande Valley would be the market.
The 900-plus opponents are relieved, temporarily. You can be sure that APR, as the ranch is known, anticipated the opposition. It’s hired big-name hydrologists, engineers, lawyers and PR people, and has probably settled in for a long campaign.
What’s telling here is who’s not among the opponents – communities along the Rio Grande, commercial interests, and big irrigation organizations. If you live in a thirsty city like Santa Fe or Rio Rancho, you might consider less orthodox sources of water. If you lived in Catron County, where 84 percent of water comes from wells, you’d be fightin’ mad.
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