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Three stream commission members resign

SANTA FE – Three members of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission – including its chairman – have resigned in the past two days, leaving the influential water policy agency in turmoil.

Commission members Jim Dunlap of Farmington and James Wilcox of Carlsbad submitted resignation letters to Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday, a day after commission Chairman Caleb Chandler of Clovis tendered his resignation.

All three declined Wednesday to discuss their resignations, which were effective immediately, saying they would issue a joint statement on the issue before the end of the week. But Dunlap expressed concern in his resignation letter about recent staff turnover and other issues.

“This resignation is very difficult for me, as a life-long public servant, but (I do so) with great concern for lack of direction from the state engineer and adherence to New Mexico state statutes,” Dunlap wrote in his resignation letter to Martinez. He did not elaborate on the allegations.

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The resignations leave the commission, which has come under fire in recent years for open meetings violations, with just four active members out of nine board positions, because there were previously two vacancies. Members of the Interstate Stream Commission do not receive salaries.

A spokesman for the Interstate Stream Commission said the agency expects the vacant positions to be filled soon by the governor.

“We appreciate their service to New Mexico with the Interstate Stream Commission and wish them well in their future endeavors,” commission spokeswoman Melissa Dosher-Smith told the Journal.

Of the three members of the Interstate Stream Commission who resigned, Chandler was appointed most recently, having been named by Martinez in March 2015. Dunlap and Wilcox were both longtime commissioners.

The Interstate Stream Commission has broad authority under New Mexico law to undertake water-related projects. The commission also has the power to negotiate with other states to settle interstate stream disputes.

A Gila River diversion project for farm and municipal use in southwestern New Mexico has come under particular scrutiny in recent years, with the agency’s former director accusing the Interstate Stream Commission in 2014 of repeatedly violating the state’s Open Meetings Act in its deliberations over the plan.

The Interstate Stream Commission has also grappled with drought-related issues in recent years, though most of New Mexico is drought-free – at least for now.

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