New Mexico Acequia Association
February 24, 2021

Senate Conservation Committee
Saturday, February 27th at 9:00am

1) Contact committee members with texts, emails, and phone calls! 
Sample messages and committee contact info included below.

2) Join the hearing and make a comment in support of the bill! 
To give public comment via Zoom, you have to register before 5pm on Friday using this link: https://forms.gle/5pgx2bgxGyHEDeCS8
When you are registered, you will receive the Zoom link and phone number.

SB 16 Background:  
  • The purpose of SB 16 is to ensure fairness and due process in the approval of water use lease applications and to protect existing water rights. 
  • SB 16 amends the Water-Use Leasing Act to affirm that a water use lease application becomes effective only after a public hearing has been held on a protested water use lease application and the state engineer has issued a final decision approving the application.
  • SB 16 is needed to affirm well-established protections in our laws for existing water rights. The State Engineer in recent years has started using an unlawful procedure he calls "preliminary approval" to approve water lease applications before all the required steps, including a public hearing on a protested application. 
  • The greatest concern of acequias about the State Engineer's unlawful lease procedure is that the applicant is allowed by the State Engineer to start using water right away before people affected can have a public hearing on their concerns and before the State Engineer has granted final approval. Under this unlawful lease procedure, the new applicant starts using the water while the protest is pending which could IMPAIR EXISTING RIGHTS.
  • According to well-established law, a public hearing is supposed to take place before the new water use to evaluate impairment, water conservation, and public welfare. The State Engineer's unlawful lease procedure has flipped water law on its head, allowing the use of water before the MANDATORY public process.

CONTACT INFO For Senate Conservation Committee

You can call, text, or email the committee members.

To send one email to all the committee members, you can cut and paste their emails and send one message to all of them at once: 
lstafanics@msn.com, a.sedillolopez@nmlegis.gov, david.rsi@hotmail.com, joseph.cervantes@nmlegis.gov, carrie.hamblen@nmlegis.gov, steven.neville@nmlegis.gov, harold.popejr@nmlegis.gov, gregg.schmedes@nmlegis.gov, bill.soules@nmlegis.gov

Elizabeth "Liz" Stefanics, Chair
(505) 397-8851
(505) 471-7643
Antionette Sedillo Lopez, Vice Chair
(505) 397-8847 
David M. Gallegos
(505) 986-4278
(575) 394-0099 

Joseph Cervantes
(505) 397-8820
(575) 523-9334 
Carrie Hamblen
(505) 397-8827

(575) 496-5242 
Steven P. Neville
(505) 986-4701 
(505) 327-5460 
Harold Pope
(505) 397-8843
(505) 289-1087 
Gregg Schmedes
(505) 986-4395
(505) 506-6725 
William P. Soules
(505) 397-8850
(575) 640-0409 

Sample text messages: 
  • I support SB 16 to protect due process in water leases. 
  • Please support SB 16 to protect existing water rights and due process in water leases. 
  • Please vote for SB 16 and affirm New Mexico's protection of existing water rights.
Sample email messages or committee testimony: 
  • I stand in strong support of SB 16 because protection of existing water rights from impairment is a basic principle in New Mexico water law. SB 16 affirms protections in the law that require that any application before the State Engineer follow procedures including notice, opportunity for protest, and a public hearing on protested applications. This ensures that I have an opportunity to raise concerns about potential impacts to my water rights. I ask you to please support SB 16. 
  • I support SB 16 because water rights are vital to my livelihood as a farmer or rancher. New Mexico law ensures that if there is a new use of water proposed, that those of us with existing water rights are notified of the new use and that we have an opportunity to raise concerns through a protest and public hearing. The State Engineer's unlawful lease procedure is taking a shortcut that is not allowed under well-established protections in our law. Please pass SB 16 so that we can have certainty that our property rights are protected. 
  • I strongly support SB 16 because water is an important part of our community. Water rights belong to us as individuals but they are also connected to the rights of our neighbors. If someone upstream from me proposes a new use of water or a change in a water use, then it could impact my water right. New Mexico law ensures that I have access to notice and opportunity to protest to raise concerns about the impacts on my rights. Please vote for SB 16 and ensure that we maintain integrity of our principles in New Mexico water law. 
  • I support SB 16 because due process is a basic principle that should be upheld in decisions by the State Engineer. Convenience for an applicant for a water lease should not come at the expense of negative impacts on existing water rights. The Water Use Leasing Act allows leases but also provides due process so that there is an opportunity for those of us potentially affected to raise concerns. 
  • SB 16 is an important piece of legislation that affirms equity for rural traditional communities. The unlawful lease procedure being used by the State Engineer prioritizes new uses of water and marginalizes the owners of water rights who seek to raise concerns about the negative impacts of those uses. SB 16 is needed to affirm long-standing protections in the law for existing rights. Industries that need water rights have an existing process to acquire water rights they need provided that they plan ahead for the time it takes to get a State Engineer permit. 
Sample Letter:

Dear Members of the Senate Conservation Committee: 

I represent [Acequia Name]which provides water to ${"["}##] irrigators in [community]

We support SB 16 Water Lease Use and Effective Dates because it protects existing water rights from impairment and provides due process in water lease applications before the State Engineer. SB 16 is needed because the state engineer has been granting the UNLAWFUL USE OF WATER upon mere submission of a water-use lease application. This is unlawful because 1) it violates due process requirements for existing water right owners affected by the application and 2) it can result in impairment to existing water rights.

Acequias in Lincoln County were not afforded a public hearing before the State Engineer used his unlawful lease procedure to allow the Village of Ruidoso to pump water upstream from the acequias while their protests were pending.

In another egregious example, the State Engineer authorized the unlawful lease of water by Intrepid Potash, Inc. and its use of OVER 5,000 ACRE FEET OF WATER  on the Lower Pecos River, despite potential negative impacts to downstream irrigators and compact deliveries to Texas. 

It is clear that this unlawful practice of allowing water-use lease applicants to use water before the public is granted a hearing has resulted in decisions that are detrimental to owners of existing and senior water rights and to the State of New Mexico. We urge the State Legislature to ensure that our laws are very clear that due process must be followed in water lease applications before the State Engineer.  Thank you for your consideration. 

[Your Name Here] 
[Your acequia name and position here]