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Agreement grants access to water on state land

CARLSBAD — An agreement between the state Land Office and the city of Carlsbad assures for the first time secure and long-term access to state trust lands for the city to connect to its water supply.

The agreement grants easement to multiple sites on state trust land for placement of new water wells that will supplement the existing municipal water systems, state Land Commissioner Ray Powell said.

He said the agreement also adds a feature that will provide water service by the city of Carlsbad should future development of that land require it.

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“It’s a win-win situation,” Mayor Dale Janway said prior to the signing of the documents Friday during a ceremony at city hall. “This agreement helps the city of Carlsbad meet the needs of our current residents and plan for this town’s growth. This assures that water will be there in the future.”

“This new form of water easement creates a partnership between the city of Carlsbad and the state Land Office as opposed to the state being just a landlord,” Powell said.

“By working with the outstanding leaders of the city, we will also create additional revenues for our public schools, universities and hospitals.”

On Thursday, Powell was in Lea County, where he and county officials signed a joint planning agreement that establishes a cooperative working relationship between the Land Office and Lea County in marketing state trust lands for economic development purposes. It also pledges collaboration before any long-term lease, sale or exchange of state trust lands occurs.

Powell told city of Carlsbad leaders that he hopes to be able to strike a similar agreement with the city and Eddy County.

He said between 1898 and 1910, 13 million acres of federal land were granted to New Mexico. Today, the state has 9 million acres of state trust land that is held in trust for public schools and universities, as well as special schools and hospitals that serve children with physical, visual and auditory disabilities.

He told Carlsbad officials and community members that, years ago, 4 million prime acres of trust were sold off over a period of time, often without the public knowing the land was up for sale. The state lands were often purchased by people with inside knowledge of an upcoming sale.

Powell said a joint planning agreement like the one signed between his agency and Lea County will create openness of proposed uses for state trust lands, and allow for public and local government input.

During his stop in Carlsbad, Powell touched on a number of issues that included Eddy County’s booming oil industry and the potash industry. He said that both industries last year played a key role in the generation of $650 million in income for the beneficiaries of state trust lands.

“About 97 percent of the income came from oil and gas related businesses,” Powell said.

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