Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Journal Staff Writer
"A new law grants the Office of the State Engineer the authority to regulate deep water wells in New Mexico for the first time, but it's unable to curb the appropriation of more than a million acre feet of water to groups that may not face regulation.
Gov. Bill Richardson signed House Bill 19 into law Monday morning, saying it "gives the state engineer long overdue jurisdiction" over water wells drilled below 2,500 feet.
The bill's sponsor, Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said at the signing that some of the damage that the bill was trying to avert has already been done. More than 600,000 acre-feet per year — six times what metro Albuquerque used in 2008 — of the deep water was appropriated through notifications to the Office of the State Engineer in the six weeks between the time the House approved the bill and the time it appeared before the Senate, Stewart said.
"Some say this is sort of like closing the barn door after all the horses have escaped," she said.
Richardson also mentioned the run on claiming the deep water, which State Engineer John D'Antonio had called a "free-for-all" before the new law took effect Monday. Richardson said the bill was good for stopping some of the more ambitious and speculative claims on the deep water, such as a Lion's Gate Water attempt to claim all of the brackish water beneath New Mexico — including all deep water under federal, state and private land.
Other companies, with titles like The Not So Dead Sea LLC and Grounded & Polite LLC, put in appropriations for thousands of acre-feet in counties all over the state just before and during the legislative session. Development companies SunCal Cos. and Mesa del Sol also put in notifications to claim some of the water beneath Bernalillo County." More (AJ subscription required) >>>>