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Friday, April 4, 2003

Governor Signs Water-Plan Bills

By David Miles
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Companion bills creating the framework for a statewide water plan were among several water-related measures that Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law on Thursday.
    The Democratic governor said the water plan bills (committee substitutes for HB 260, SB 195) were among the most important measures passed by lawmakers in this year's 60-day regular legislative session, which ended March 22.
    "We can't achieve our economic or personal goals without taking immediate steps to ensure New Mexico has an adequate supply of water for generations to come," Richardson said at a news conference in his Cabinet room.
    The legislation calls for the Interstate Stream Commission to develop a water plan that includes an inventory of the state's water resources and a drought management plan.
    The water plan bills were sponsored by Rep. Mimi Stewart and Sen. Dede Feldman, both Albuquerque Democrats.
    Richardson also signed a bill (HB 882) dedicating 10 percent of the state's severance tax bonding capacity to water projects.
    State Engineer John D'Antonio Jr. said there is about $2.3 billion in water project needs in New Mexico.
    House Speaker Ben Lujan, a Santa Fe Democrat who sponsored the measure, said the new law is estimated to generate $100 million for water projects over the next decade.
    Richardson also signed measures:
   
  • Encouraging local governments and large water suppliers to adopt conservation and drought management plans (SB 554);
       
  • Allowing acequias and community ditch associations to set up water banks (HB 302); and
       
  • Requiring the secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to develop a statewide watershed restoration strategy (HB 910).