Seven running for four seats on conservancy district board - Albuquerque Journal

Seven running for four seats on conservancy district board

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board manages irrigation and flood control from Cochiti Dam to Elephant Butte Reservoir. The MRGCD is also a partner with federal agencies in endangered species protection efforts.

The election for MRGCD board of directors is Tuesday, June 8, and four positions on the seven-member board are on this year’s ballot. Absentee voting is underway and early voting starts Monday. Board members serve staggered four-year terms.

Eligible voters are residents who own property in the area benefited by the conservancy district, even if they are not irrigators.

Current Socorro County board member Valerie Moore is not running for reelection. Sandoval County representative Michael Sandoval is running unopposed.

Here are the seven candidates:

Bernalillo County (Position 3) candidates

Karen Dunning

Karen Dunning (incumbent)

Dunning, the current board chair, grew up in a Wyoming ranching family and is a longtime Los Ranchos resident.

A former community planner for the City of Albuquerque, she is seeking a fourth term on the board.

Dunning said the board should include the community in decisions about managing water for ratepayers, large and small farmers and urban residents who recreate on MRGCD property.

“I think that the MRGCD is at a crossroads with this drought,” Dunning said. “We just keep kicking the can down the road, and at some point, everybody has to take a leadership role and deal with this.”

Julia L. Maccini

Julia Maccini

Maccini was raised in Los Ranchos and currently serves on the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Protection Advisory Board.

An attorney by training, Maccini works for family-owned construction, real estate and farming businesses, including Architectural Contractors Inc.

She helps farm property at the West Side Open Space Visitor Center and Alamo Farm.

The former staffer for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman said she is running for a seat because she wants to improve communication with farmers and stop property tax increases.

“I believe the MRGCD could use stronger fiscal management leadership,” Maccini said. “As a farmer, I know what it means to lose irrigation water partway through the season. The process by which decisions are made is not clear in my opinion.”

Bernalillo County (Position 4) candidates

Joaquin Baca (incumbent)

Joaquin Baca

Baca grew up in Belen, lives in Downtown Albuquerque and has served on the board since 2017. He is a hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Southwest region.

A U.S. Army and New Mexico National Guard veteran and former high school science teacher, Baca helped start a district conservation program that pays farmers to stop watering for a year and provides technical assistance.

Baca said managing different economic, environmental and cultural water interests throughout the district is a major board responsibility.

“We use our board committees to create sound policies to protect the district and the constituency,” Baca said. “We try to do it in a way that follows science, sticks to our legal authority and really listens to the people who live here.”

Simon T. “Scooter” Haynes

Simon “Scooter” Haynes

Haynes is a fifth-generation New Mexican who owns a real estate and construction business. He also irrigates and farms in the North Valley with fellow candidate Julia Maccini.

A New Mexico State University graduate with agriculture and business degrees, Haynes said he would like to improve the district’s water conservation program to be more accessible to small farmers.

He said he is running for a board seat to preserve agriculture in the valley, and improve communication between district staff, farmers and the irrigation system operators, or “ditch riders.”

“Every irrigator is important, whether you’re a small irrigator irrigating your backyard trees, or a large irrigator,” Haynes said. “Both need to be protected.”

Socorro County (Position 6) candidates

Glen Duggins

Glen Duggins

Duggins, who grows chile and alfalfa at Cinco Estrella Farms in Lemitar, served as an at-large board member from 2015 to 2019.

He is currently the New Mexico Chile Association president and a Socorro County commissioner.

Duggins said his board service and county government experience would help him to bring different agencies together on water issues and projects. He said he wants to preserve the agricultural economy in the valley and help maintain large flood-irrigated farms for migratory bird habitat.

“Within the district, we have pueblos, we have cities and we have rural farmers, and they all have different needs,” Duggins said. “The board is currently out of touch with the agriculture community.”

Steven Sichler

Steven Sichler

Sichler is a sixth-generation farmer from San Antonio, New Mexico.

His family’s Snake Ranch farm grows alfalfa, corn, wheat, oats, soybeans, chile, melons, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers.

Sichler leased his first farmland when he was 15. His family runs produce stands in Los Lunas and San Antonio.

Sichler said he is seeking a board seat to represent farming interests and ensure that the board meets its primary obligations for irrigation water delivery and flood control.

“Right now we have such a big water debt, and it needs to get paid off before we go into worse debt,” Sichler said. “The river and the channel are both not operating efficiently. I would be dedicated to doing a good job for my neighbors and everyone I represent.”


Sandoval County (Position 7) candidate

Michael T. Sandoval (incumbent)

Michael Sandoval

Sandoval is running unopposed.

The former San Felipe Pueblo governor worked at the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a water resources civil engineer technician for 30 years before becoming the water resources specialist at San Felipe Pueblo.

Sandoval grows traditional row crops, and said a big issue facing the MRGCD is the rehabilitation of El Vado Dam.

“Of course we have to deal with what Mother Nature does for us, because we’re going to have a hard time with water delivery this year,” Sandoval said. “Those are some of the things they have to be worked out in regards to how we can efficiently deliver the water to our constituents.”

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