Thursday, September 3, 2009

OPINION: San Augustin Plains to Dark Mountain: A Troubled Journey

Magdalena Potluck
By Don Wiltshire

For those of you who are concerned about the availability of water in our area for us, for our children and for our grandchildren, have I got a treat for you! A group of us “rabid activists” got together last Sunday to plan an early November meeting in Magdalena to discuss what we know about the local “water grab.” I’ll keep you informed as soon as guest speakers commit and plans are finalized.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this water grab issue, here is a brief synopsis: Back in October 2007, the Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC, filed an application with the State Engineer’s Office to drill 37 water wells on their property to a depth of 2,000 feet with 20-inch casings. They proposed to pump 54,000 acre-feet of ground water (that’s 17,000,000,000 gallons) a year and dump it into the Rio Grande via pipeline. This would evidently be “sold” to New Mexico so that we might meet our water obligations to Texas.
The Ranch is supposedly owned by a Mr. Bruno Modena, a businessman who lives in Milan, Italy. Google him and you will find the heart-throb soccer star of Italy, NOT the Bruno we’re looking for … or is it?.
Protests to this application were filed by 382 groups and individuals. They saw the writing on the wall: that this privatization of ground water would devastate the entire area.
Then, in August 2008, Bruno decided to amend his application to increase the depth of the wells to 3,000 feet. This opened up the window of opportunity to protest again and, indeed, another 600 of us responded. There are now more than 1,000 official letters of protest on file at the State Engineer’s Office. Each one of these is an official document which must be responded to and dealt with, in order to move this application forward. That’s quite a large wrench that we’ve managed to throw into the gears of “progress.”
The San Augustin Water Coalition was formed to organize these protestors and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center will represent the group without charging attorney fees. The contact person at the Coalition is Carol Pittman and can be reached at
This battle is far from over. The Cordova Public Relations group, hired by Bruno, paints a glowing picture of the “benefits” that New Mexico could reap from this project. It is particularly appealing to the Santa Fe and Albuquerque residents who are concerned with keeping their pools filled. Who knows what strings might get pulled or whose palm might get greased.
It was while mulling over this insatiable greed for profit at the expense of us “common folk” that the Dark Mountain Project came to my attention. (Thanks Elaine and Elliot). Every once-in-a-while an idea comes along that seems to burrow beneath the daily static of “economic crisis,” “healthcare reform,” or “global warming.” Dark Mountain consists of a group of writers in England who bill themselves as “a new literary movement for an age of global disruption.”
In spite of the ominous sounding title, this does not seem to be a “doomsday” group. Rather, they seem to be concerned with how we will manage to live in harmony with the Earth after the collapse of civilization.
From the home page of their website: “We aim to question the stories that underpin our failing civilization, to craft new ones for the age ahead and to write clearly and honestly about our true place in the word.” I can’t wait to get started on their suggested reading list.
After the unimaginable horrors of the collapse, it will be refreshing to imagine a world without bubble wrap, WalMart bags, credit cards, e-mail (but wait! How will I get my column in?)
If you’re intrigued, check out their site at

Comments? Problems? Solutions? Up coming Events? Volunteers to be Book-people? Contact me at Don Wiltshire lives in Magdalena. His opinions do not necessarily represent the Mountain Mail.

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