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NM court asked to decide dispute over Pecos River

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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.

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