SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico’s highest court is refereeing a dispute over whether the state’s top water manager can decide proposed water rights transfers to increase flows in the drought-stricken Pecos River.
The state Supreme Court is scheduled Monday to hear arguments from lawyers over a state plan to transfer water rights to allow more pumping of groundwater near Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico. The water will go by pipeline into a reservoir to boost river flows.
A ranching family contends that State Engineer Scott Verhines shouldn’t decide the water rights transfers because his office proposed them and has a conflict of interest. An Eddy County district court judge agreed and stopped the state engineer from holding a hearing.
The Supreme Court blocked the judge’s ruling while it resolves the dispute.