Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – There is now enough funding to complete the first phase of the Aamodt settlement agreement water infrastructure in the Pojoaque Basin due to an additional $137 million in the federal omnibus spending bill signed into law by President Trump last month.
The key piece in the decades-long litigation over water rights in the area is the construction of the Pojoaque Basin Regional Water System. In addition to increased funding, the bill extended the “substantial” completion date of the project by four years to 2028.
When complete, the water system will provide clean drinking water to approximately 10,000 people living on tribal and non-tribal land, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Mary Carlson, a bureau spokeswoman, said as the project moved forward with design and construction, it became evident there wasn’t enough money allocated to complete the water system.
She said the passage of the omnibus bill gave the bureau access to $137 million it can now spend. With the increase, she said there is enough funding to complete the first phase of the project, but additional funding will be needed for the second and third phases.
Despite the funding increase, local resident and retired geologist Mike Johnson said it’ll take more for residents to actually hook up to the water system.
He said he can see how the water system will benefit Santa Fe County and the pueblos, but not the people living in the valley.
Johnson said builders are going to have to install lines along county roads and arroyos, and that’s going to be expensive. Many people like to use their own wells and don’t want to pay for “every gallon,” he said.
Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal said the county advocated for the funding increase. He said the county and the state weren’t able to help with the initial funding shortfall because the Aamodt case is a federal settlement.
Some of his constituents are unable to drill wells, he said, and with the water system they’ll be able to access that water.
Roybal said he also has constituents who are planning to keep their wells.
As time goes on, he said he hopes more people will be able to utilize the water system.