Thursday, May 20, 2010

Water Grab Coalition To Meet Saturday

By John Larson

DATIL - A coalition formed to fight a water grab in Socorro and Catron counties is having its annual meeting on May 22 at 6 p.m. in the Datil Elementary School Gym.
The San Augustin Water Coalition was formed by ranchers and property owners in western Socorro and eastern Catron counties soon after a request for the permitting of 37 wells on the Plain of San Agustin was published in the Mountain Mail in Nov. 2007.
Organizers of the coalition contend that area may be facing a severe water shortage in years to come if an Italian businessman has his way.
Bruno Modena, owner of San Augustin Ranch LLC based in New York City, wants to pump out 6.9 billion gallons of water per day from the San Agustin aquifer and sell it back to the state to meet commitments to the Rio Grande Compact.
The original proposal – which has since been amended - asked for permission to “divert and consumptively use 54,000 acre-feet of water yearly for domestic, livestock, irrigation, municipal, industrial, and commercial uses to include providing water to the state of New Mexico to augment its capacity to meet deliveries to the state of Texas at Elephant Butte dam and offsetting effects of ground water pumping on the Rio Grande in lieu of retirement of agriculture via a pipeline to the Rio Grande.”
The proposal was amended in May, 2008, to allow the drilling to go down 3,000 feet.
In the meantime, the Office of the State Engineer, has been struggling to keep up with validating hundreds of protest letters.
Attorney Bruce Frederick of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center said the total number of protests is over 900.
In a meeting of the San Agustin Water Coalition in Magdalena last December, geohydrologist Frank Pettis told the group that approval of the permit could have disastrous results for this region of the state, affecting not only private wells, but water levels for connecting sources, such as the Tularosa basin, which feeds the San Francisco River. The adjacent aquifer in the Gila region would also be affected.
The Office of the State Engineer has yet to approve the drilling.
Following the coalition’s annual meeting, there will be a candidates forum with gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov., PRC, Land Commission, as well as local.

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