ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court today ruled the New Mexico Office of State Engineer has the legal authority to streamline administration of water rights in cases where the state’s cumbersome legal process for adjudicating water rights has failed to catch up with increasing scarcity in many of the state’s rivers. The decision overturns a 2010 Court of Appeals ruling that found the streamlining process, originally directed by the New Mexico legislature, violated water rights’ holders constitutional rights.
From the ruling (pdf):
We reverse and hold that the Legislature delegated lawful authority to the State Engineer to promulgate the challenged water administration regulations. We also hold that the regulations are not unconstitutional on separation of powers, due process, or vagueness grounds.
Here’s my story from October 2010 explaining the Court of Appeals ruling that has now been overturned. (I’ll have more later today, and in tomorrow’s newspaper, once the state’s over-large cadre of water lawyers and rights administrators have had a chance to digest the opinion and help flesh out its significance.)