Budget proposal concerns NM water official - Albuquerque Journal

Budget proposal concerns NM water official

The Rio Grande in 2017. The Interstate Stream Commission uses a strategic water reserve to offset habitat work and supplement river flows on New Mexico waterways. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
The Rio Grande in 2017. The Interstate Stream Commission uses a strategic water reserve to offset habitat work and supplement river flows on New Mexico waterways. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tried to show with her proposed budget this year that water is a top priority, allocating, among other things, $128 million for water infrastructure improvements, but a top state water official said that, while the increase will certainly help, it might not be enough to meet the moment.

Interstate Stream Commission Director Rolf Schmidt-Petersen expressed concern last week that the funding allocated to his department and the Office of the State Engineer won’t be enough to meet their staffing needs, especially as the job market continues to be highly competitive. His department is attached to, and for budgeting purposes, is a program under the OSE, but still functions as its own agency.

“Our salary ranges are not tremendously competitive with places like Los Alamos, for example, or today with different consulting firms,” he said. He added that the midpoint salary that the state uses to calculate salaries and allocate money for them is lower than the department can realistically pay to attract and keep people, meaning the department is less likely to hire new people as it tries to maintain the staff it has.

Issues that his and the state engineer’s staff will tackle in the coming years range from overseeing new water infrastructure projects to processing permit requests from cannabis farms to carrying out the obligations the state will have as a result of the Supreme Court case over Rio Grande water with Texas and Colorado.

Schmidt-Peterson said the Interstate Stream Commission and the Office of the State Engineer combined requested funds to cover 11 new staff members. The governor’s proposed budget calls for a 24% increase in the ISC budget and 12% in the OSE budget, but Schmidt-Petersen said that would cover fewer staff than requested. The Legislative Finance Committee’s budget called for four new staff members, for example.

“It’s good to get a recommendation that’s consistent for a few staff. And that certainly will help. But it will be very difficult to move money and to take on a lot of these efforts,” Schmidt-Petersen said.

The proposed budgets both call for an increase in spending on water-related projects, but Schmidt-Petersen said he was concerned that, without more staff, his department will face an uphill battle carrying them out.

He also said that, while he and his staff fully intend to follow the new mandate that state employees return to working full-time in person, he views the current system – where employees have the option to work in-office, remotely or a hybrid – as a great success.

“I’ve just been tremendously proud of these people. They’ve given time and effort because they get flexibility there,” he said. “They’re doing more for us and, as a result, I think we’ve been more efficient than when we have them in the office.”

He also said the ISC is already strapped for space for its current employees, with some doubling-up in offices meant for one person. A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office said in an email that the Office of the State Engineer reported to the State Personnel Office that it has sufficient space.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Budget proposal concerns NM water official
1
Green comet sighting is 50,000 years in the making
ABQnews Seeker
For the first time in 50,000 ... For the first time in 50,000 years, the public has the opportunity to witness a green comet as it pa ...
2
Musician Matt Hillyer found inspiration for album 'Glorieta' in ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Texas-based musician Matt Hillyer will ... The Texas-based musician Matt Hillyer will end his tour run with Dale Watson on Friday, Jan. 27, at Launchpad.
3
Two suspects arrested in shooting death of Academy student
ABQnews Seeker
Jada Gonzales, 18, was shot at ... Jada Gonzales, 18, was shot at a house party in December
4
Photos: UNM Lobos women's basketball team beats CSU Rams ...
ABQnews Seeker
5
McGruder's grit, Augmon's shot lift UNM women to much-needed ...
ABQnews Seeker
Not necessarily pretty, but it got ... Not necessarily pretty, but it got the job done. The University of New Mexico women's basketball took a different approach to Thursday night's game ...
6
Midrange Mash: Lobo leads league in scoring thanks to ...
ABQnews Seeker
Lobo guard Jamal Mashburn, Jr., leads ... Lobo guard Jamal Mashburn, Jr., leads the MWC in scoring thanks to mastering the 'lost art' of the midrange jumper.
7
'Travels with Darley': PBS travel show visits New Mexico, ...
ABQnews Seeker
Darley Newman is host of "Travels ... Darley Newman is host of "Travels with Darley," which airs nationally. "New Mexico always holds a special place in my heart," she said. "This ...
8
Legislative proposal aims to amplify NM arts economy
ABQnews Seeker
House Bill 8 calls for a ... House Bill 8 calls for a new Creative Industries Division within the Economic Development Department
9
Lawmakers chewing on bill proposing free school meals for ...
ABQnews Seeker
Initiative would cover breakfast, lunch for ... Initiative would cover breakfast, lunch for over 69,000 students not subsidized