ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The discussion about the Intel water deal at last night’s (Mon. 6/16) Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District meeting was perhaps most fascinating for what it wasn’t.
The agreement calls for Intel to hand over water rights and money to the state, in return for the state letting Intel off the hook for potentially expensive additional future water rights need to offset the company’s groundwater pumping. (More details here.)
The MRGCD is not the government body making the decision about the deal. That responsibility falls to the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, which meets tomorrow (Wed., June 16) to consider the agreement. The MRGCD Board had a much more modest goal Monday night – whether to some sort of stand in support or opposition. And yet a lot of big guns in the New Mexico water community were out to speak, primarily because this is one of the few chances for public input into the fast-moving agreement.
Among the big names: former State Engineer Eluid Martinez (thinks it’s a bad idea), hydrologist Frank Titus (thinks it’s a bad idea), water activist Elaine Hebard (thinks it’s a bad idea), water lawyer Sherry Tippett (thinks it’s a bad idea). Aside from Interstate Stream Commission head Estevan Lopez (thinks it’s a good idea), there seemed to be no one at Monday’s meeting supporting the agreement.
What’s fascinating here is that, by and large, those offering public comment weren’t talking about the effect of the deal on the MRGCD. They were simply taking advantage of the meeting because the MRGCD session has provided one of the few forums for public discussion of the deal.
Martinez, among many smart New Mexico water people, argues that an important precedent is being set by the Intel-ISC agreement. He is not the only one to argue that such an agreement perhaps needs a little more time for state politicians and policy makers to digest.