Editor’s Note: I wrote in La Jicarita about the stall of the Aamodt Settlement due to lack of federal funding and time constraints at the end of March of 2019. The cost estimate at that time, in 2018 dollars, was $421.4 million, with a $213.4 million funding gap: $160.2 million in federal funding and $53.2 million non-federal funding. The state of New Mexico has no obligation to provide any additional amounts above what is stipulated in the Cost Sharing Agreement of the Settlement, which is $57 million. Santa Fe County’s Cost Share was $13.4 million. I called the Bureau of Reclamation, which is the agency tasked with building the Pojoaque Valley Regional Water System, to see what I could find out about the status of that project, and was referred to Pamela Williams of the Department of the Interior, who never returned my calls. I called Senator Udall’s office to see if they had an update, but they funneled me through the communications department that eventually got back to me to say they had no current information regarding the situation.
On June 21, 2019, the New Mexico congressional delegation introduced a bill to “Fulfill the Aamodt Litigation Settlement.” The press release claims that “Legislation supported by stakeholders will complete the United States’ commitment in the longest-running Indian water rights case.” The press release is included in its entirely below, with enthusiastic comments from concerned parties. As you will see, the only non-pueblo person they include from the Pojoaque Valley who is a party to the settlement is Larry White, an attorney who participated in the settlement. If they had asked for comments from well owners who are parties to the adjudication (more than 700 of them were objectors), like the ones who participate in the Facebook page for Pojoaque and Española Valleys Forum, the comments might have been more like this: we never wanted a regional water delivery system, we wanted a sewage system; we don’t want to give up our wells; the settlement can provide water to the pueblos without spending millions of dollars on what is considered a boondoggle or a stealth plot to ultimately send the water to Santa Fe.
I’ve also attached the wording of the bill, which under the section of Pueblo Construction Costs would strike ‘‘$106,400,000’’ and insert ‘‘$256,400,000’’. Funding for the Regional Water System would be amended by striking ‘‘$50,000,000’’ and inserting‘‘$200,000,000’’; and (2) by striking ‘‘2024’’ and inserting ‘‘2028’’. 2024 was the original deadline for the system to be built to meet the terms of the settlement.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small introduced legislation to ensure the Bureau of Reclamation has sufficient funding and time to implement its obligations under the 2010 Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act and the related water rights case that began in 1966.
The Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque were joined by Santa Fe County, the City of Santa Fe and the State of New Mexico to reach a difficult, but necessary agreement to address the current costs and construction timeline associated with the Pojoaque Regional Water System.
The New Mexico Congressional delegation issued the following joint statement:
“Access to water in New Mexico is rooted in hundreds of years of traditions, cultures, and heritage. We commend the Settlement Parties on their efforts to find a path forward to ensure we bring an end to over a half-century of litigation to resolve water rights in the Rio Pojoaque Basin and provide certainty and predictability to all water users in the Basin, and we expect robust community outreach and transparency moving forward. This bill will help bring us closer to providing a clear path to construct a Pojoaque Regional Water System that will provide the security of clean, reliable water supplies in the Basin.”
Leaders in New Mexico praised the introduction of the legislation.
“I want to thank our Congressional partners for introducing this important legislation,” said Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. “The state, the federal government and local entities are all in this together, and only by continuing to work together will we ensure the best possible result for the residents of the Pojoaque Valley.”
“We appreciate our Congressional delegation’s continued support of the Aamodt settlement. Additional funding for the regional water system is critical to implementing the full settlement and protecting the rights of all parties involved,” said City of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber.
“The introduction of this Amendment to the Aamodt Settlement Act shows the federal government‘s commitment to ensuring all residents of the Pojoaque valley have a safe and reliable source of water. The Aamodt Settlement is vitally important to resolve the Pueblos’ water claims as well as protecting all water users in the Pojoaque Basin. The Pueblo of Pojoaque remains committed to working with its settlement partners – the County, the City, the State, the federal government and all of the community in the Pojoaque valley to implement the Aamodt Settlement and construct the Regional Water System which will secure our water supply now and for our future generations,” said Governor Talachy of the Pueblo of Pojoaque.
“The Pueblo de San Ildefonso praises the introduction of the amendments to the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act. The proposed bill reflects the hard work and commitment of all the Settlement parties and our congressional delegation to provide for the additional financial support needed to ensure the successful construction of a regional water system that will bring safe drinking water to the area,” said Perry Martinez, Governor of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso. “The regional water system is a critical feature of the Aamodt Settlement since water quality in the area will continue to be impacted into the future.” “On behalf of the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, we truly appreciate the efforts of our congressional delegation to support this important infrastructure project that will benefit the Pueblo and Pojoaque Valley communities alike.”
“On behalf of the Pueblo of Nambe, I support and am grateful for our congressional delegation’s important efforts to secure the additional funding necessary to complete and implement the Aamodt Settlement which remains as critically significant today as when it was approved by Congress in 2010. The Pueblo of Nambe has worked diligently with all of our Aamodt Settlement partners – the State of New Mexico, the County of Santa Fe, the City of Santa Fe and the federal government – to ensure that the Aamodt Settlement is fully implemented,” said Governor Phillip Perez, of the Nambé Pueblo. “The Aamodt Settlement ended years of litigation and it is only through construction of the Regional Water System, which will bring additional reliable and clean water into our valley, that the settlement will succeed. The amendments to the Settlement Act introduced by our congressional delegation to allow for the necessary additional funding for the Regional Water System are necessary to provide for full settlement implementation. The Pueblo of Nambe greatly appreciates the very important efforts of our New Mexico delegation.”
Santa Fe County Manager Katherine Miller said, “Santa Fe County applauds the New Mexico delegation for taking this much-needed step in ensuring the success of the Aamodt Settlement. We are looking forward to continuing our partnership with the Pueblos to provide safe and reliable drinking water to northern Santa Fe County.”
Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners Chair Anna Hamilton said, “We are so grateful for the support and forward-thinking of our congressional delegation, along with our valuable working partnership with the Pueblos, in continuing to work toward successful completion of this regional water project. The challenge of securing and managing for reliable water in a future threatened by climate change on top of ongoing water demands requires the types of bold action that fulfilling the Aamodt Settlement represents.”
“Through this legislation, New Mexico’s Congressional delegation demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to provide its appropriate share of the cost for construction of the Regional Water System, a rural infrastructure project that will provide a reliable supply of potable water to both Pueblo and non-Pueblo residents in the Pojoaque Valley,” said State Engineer John R. D’Antonio Jr., P.E.
“Funding the Regional Water System and extending its completion date is critical to the Aamodt water rights Settlement. The Settlement is essential for the protection of the non-Pueblo acequia and domestic water rights in the Tesuque and Pojoaque valleys and to maintain the status quo. Without the Settlement, a Pueblo priority call would greatly reduce the water available for use by the non-Pueblo acequias and, potentially, for non-Pueblo domestic uses throughout the Pojoaque Basin. The Rio de Tesuque Association, Inc. greatly appreciates the efforts of our Congressional Delegation to move this forward,” said Larry White, on behalf of the Rio de Tesuque Association.
1ST SESSION H. R. 3292
To amend the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, and for other purposes.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
JUNE 14, 2019
Mr. LUJAN (for himself, Ms. HAALAND, and Ms. TORRES SMALL of New Mexico)
introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee
on Natural Resources
To amend the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Aamodt Litigation Settlement Completion Act of 2019’’.
SEC. 2. AMENDMENTS TO AAMODT LITIGATION SETTLEMENT ACT.
(a) DEFINITION OF 611(g) AGREEMENT.—Section 602 of the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act (Public Law111–291; 124 Stat. 3134) is amended—
(1) by redesignating paragraphs (1) through (23) as paragraphs (2) through (24), respectively; and
(2) by inserting before paragraph (2) (as so redesignated) the following:
‘‘(1) 611(g) AGREEMENT.—The term ‘611(g)Agreement’ means the agreement to be executed by the United States, the State, the Pueblos, the County, and the City pursuant to section 611(g).’’
(b) CONSTRUCTION COSTS FOR PUEBLO WATER FACILITIES.—Section 611(f) of the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act (Public Law 111–291; 124 Stat. 3138) is
(1) in paragraph (1)—
(A) in subparagraph (A), by striking ‘‘$106,400,000’’ and inserting ‘‘$256,400,000’’;
(B) by striking subparagraph (B) and inserting the following:
‘‘(B) EXCEPTION.—Of the amount described in subparagraph (A)—
‘‘(i) the initial $106,400,000 shall be increased or decreased, as appropriate, based on ordinary fluctuations in construction costs since October 1, 2006, as deter-mined using applicable engineering cost indices; and
‘‘(ii) any amounts made available in excess of the amount described in clause
(i) shall be increased or decreased, as appropriate, based on ordinary fluctuations
in construction costs since October 1, 2018, as determined using applicable engineering cost indices.’’; and
(2) in paragraph (3), by inserting ‘‘and the 611(g) Agreement’’ after ‘‘the Cost-Sharing andSystem Integration Agreement’’.
(c) FUNDING FOR REGIONAL WATER SYSTEM.—Section 617(a)(1)(B) of the Aamodt Litigation SettlementAct (Public Law 111–291; 124 Stat. 3147) is amended—
(1) by striking ‘‘$50,000,000’’ and inserting‘‘$200,000,000’’; and
(2) by striking ‘‘2024’’ and inserting ‘‘2028’’.
(d) EXECUTION OF AGREEMENT UNDER SECTION
611(g).—Section 621 of the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act (Public Law 111–291; 124 Stat. 3149) is amended by striking subsections (a) and (b) and inserting the following:
‘‘(a) APPROVAL.—To the extent the Settlement Agreement, the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement, and the 611(g) Agreement do not conflict with
this title, the Settlement Agreement, the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement, and the 611(g) Agreement (including any amendments to the Settlement Agreement, the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement, and
the 611(g) Agreement that are executed to make the Settlement Agreement, the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement, or the 611(g) Agreement consistent with this title) are authorized, ratified, and confirmed.
‘‘(b) EXECUTION.—To the extent the Settlement Agreement, the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement, and the 611(g) Agreement do not conflict with
this title, the Secretary shall execute the Settlement Agreement, the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement, and the 611(g) Agreement (including any
amendments that are necessary to make the Settlement Agreement, the Cost-Sharing and System Integration Agreement, or the 611(g) Agreement consistent with this title).’’
(e) FINAL DECREE.—Section 623(e) of the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act (Public Law 111–291; 124 Stat. 3152) is amended—
(1) in paragraph (2), by striking ‘‘2024’’ and inserting ‘‘2028’’; and (2) in paragraph (5)(A), by striking ‘‘2024’’ and inserting ‘‘2028’’.