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Court stays out of water dispute

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court has given a quick “no” to a group of state legislators who had asked the court to intervene in a dispute over allocation of San Juan River water rights to the Navajo Nation.

In a one-page ruling written Friday and made public Tuesday, the court denied without comment a petition from three legislators and a San Juan Basin water user who had claimed the Navajo water settlement should be invalidated because it had never gone before the Legislature for approval.

The agreement, approved by a judge in New Mexico’s 11th Judicial District in San Juan County last August, allocates enough additional water to the Navajo Nation’s farming operation to irrigate about 40,000 acres of farmland.

The agreement is based on a 1948 compact among New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming that allocated New Mexico an unusually large share of San Juan River water based on the argument that the water was needed to meet the needs of members of the Navajo Nation living in New Mexico.

Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, said Tuesday he was disappointed by the court’s ruling. Bandy, Sen. Steve Neville, R-Farmington, Rep. Carl Trujillo, D- Santa Fe, and San Juan County farmer Jim Rogers were plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed May 14.

In a May 23 brief, the New Mexico Office of State Engineer pointed out that the judge in the August District Court decision approving the Navajos’ water rights had already ruled that legislative approval was not required.