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Richardson Campaign Press Release - Governor Richardson Announces Landmark Water Supply Agreement

June 14, 2007

(Santa Fe, NM) -- Governor Bill Richardson Thursday announced the successful conclusion of a landmark agreement on water supply, which places the Aamodt and Taos Indian Water Rights settlements on a path towards introduction in Congress.

"Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne challenged the pueblos and governments to adjust their water needs to fit within the already-identified supply -- and after intense negotiations-- they succeeded," said Governor Bill Richardson. "Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici underscored Kempthorne's water limit by agreeing to move the legislation expeditiously if consensus could be reached on water."

After intense negotiations an agreement was reached on how to fit the terms within the available water. The pueblos in the two settlements made clear in agreeing on the water budgets that their ultimate approval of the settlements would hinge upon sufficient funding.

"If Congress and the administration fully meet their federal obligation, then the way will be clear for the water settlements to be implemented and thus bring an end to decades of litigation and negotiation," said Governor Richardson. "New Mexico has already put a down payment on these settlements through a $10 million appropriation to the Indian Water Rights Settlement Fund. I urge Congress and the administration to meet their obligation and help secure New Mexico's long-term water supply."

Taos Pueblo Governor Gilbert Suazo Sr. stated that arriving at a resolution on the water supply issue was difficult for the Pueblo because of the limited water supply defined for the Taos Pueblo and Aamodt settlements. For Taos Pueblo this meant a reduction of the San Juan Chama Project water supply for its settlement that had to be shared with the Aamodt settlement.

"We arrived at an acceptable resolution; however it is contingent on acceptability of the overall Taos Pueblo Water Settlement package that is yet to be determined," said Governor Suazo. "With the water supply issue behind us we are ready to move forward with settlement legislation so that the settlement package can be determined."

The identified supply is sufficient to cover about 90 percent of the combined water budget of the two settlements. The Aamodt settlement, involving the pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, Tesuque and San Ildefonso, plus the city and county of Santa Fe, has been in litigation for more than 41 years. Mediation talks that spanned some six years resulted in agreement among the pueblos, the state and many of the non-Indian water user groups in the Nambe-Pojoaque Valley.

The Abeyta settlement, in the Taos Valley, has been in litigation and negotiation for almost two decades. Taos Pueblo, the Town of Taos, El Prado Mutual Domestic Water Users Association, Taos Valley Acequias and others, reached agreement on a settlement in that case last year.

"Last year, I met with Secretary Kempthorne, my former colleague in the Western Governor's Association, and urged him to address New Mexico's Indian water rights settlements," said Governor Richardson. "He assured me he would do so, and the active engagement of his office--led by chief counsel Michael Bogert--started almost immediately."

Governor Richardson has made the long-term protection and security of New Mexico's water a top priority since the beginning of his administration. On his instruction, the governor's staff and the legal staff in the state water agencies worked tirelessly to make implementation of the two Rio Grande Indian water rights settlements a reality.

Bill Richardson, Richardson Campaign Press Release - Governor Richardson Announces Landmark Water Supply Agreement Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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