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White House: List featuring Augustin project is not a ‘policy document’

WASHINGTON – The White House on Wednesday disavowed a document saying that the Augustin Plains Ranch water project proposal in New Mexico is among 50 major infrastructure projects under consideration by President Donald Trump’s administration.

On Tuesday night, the Journal linked to the document – first reported by The Kansas City Star of the McClatchy newspaper group – in a story on its website. The original post on ABQJournal.com was removed late Tuesday after a Politico report questioned the document’s authenticity.

“It is not a White House policy document,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters told the Journal on Tuesday.

However, McClatchy’s Washington bureau still had the story on its website late Wednesday with an “update” providing additional details about its sourcing.

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The McClatchy story said: “President Donald Trump’s team has compiled a list of about 50 infrastructure projects nationwide, totaling at least $137.5 billion, as the new White House tries to determine its investment priorities, according to documents obtained by McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and The News Tribune. The preliminary list, provided to the National Governors Association by the Trump transition team, offers a first glimpse at which projects around the country might get funding if Trump follows through on his campaign promise to renew America’s crumbling highways, airports, dams and bridges. The governors association shared that list with state officials in December. The group told the officials the projects on that list were ‘already being vetted.'”

The list in question includes the Augustin Plains Ranch water project in New Mexico, which has been in the development stages for years. The project would pump 54,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Augustin Plains of west-central New Mexico up to the Middle Rio Grande Valley and Bernalillo County.

In August, the Journal reported that the plan calls for Augustin Plains Ranch to drill 37 wells on the 17,000 acres it owns near Datil. The company says the property sits atop an aquifer with a volume of about 50 million acre-feet of water. An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre at a depth of one foot.

Water pumped from the aquifer would be delivered via a 140-mile-long pipeline to Bernalillo County and would be available for purchase by all users along the way.

But many ranchers on the Plains of San Augustin are opposed to the project because they fear it would suck all the groundwater out of the basin, rendering their own wells useless and killing their livelihoods. Some environmentalists oppose the plan as well.


To our readers

The early edition of the Wednesday Journal included a front page story about a document stating that the Augustin Plains Ranch water project proposal in New Mexico was among 50 major infrastructure projects under consideration by President Donald Trump’s administration.

When reports questioning the veracity of that document surfaced Tuesday night, the early edition had already been printed and was on the way for delivery.

Rather than give its readers a story the Journal had reason to believe was based on a false report — even though one major newspaper group already had published a story based on that document — the Journal pulled those papers from delivery. It also removed the story from its website. But, by then, it was too late to reprint and distribute the edition.

We apologize for the inconvenience.


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