Op Ed: Acequias Left High & Dry By Governor Vetoes

An acequia in need of repair outside Gallina. Courtesy photo

Op Ed: Acequias Left High & Dry By Governor Vetoes

By State Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard

Older than state government, older than the legislative capital outlay process, older even than our state constitution are our acequia systems.  The life blood of our centuries old agricultural traditions, they are one of the oldest forms of government in existence. The mayordomo one of the first examples of a local, elected official that represented the interests of the larger community.

Today the acequia systems are seen by many as relics, remains of a bygone era when the whole community would gather with their palas to “clean the ditch”, share a meal and work together.  Many older acequia systems no longer run, clogged with debris. 

However, the proud tradition of the acequias still remains strong throughout our state, especially here in the north, where the acequia is very often the unifying factor in a community; that bridge between the last generation and the next.  Though strong, they are lacking; lacking resources to be self-sufficient and continue on into the future. 

And this year they were dealt a near fatal blow that they may not recover from.

Each year, the local legislators of the community fund individual acequia projects.  Projects that are dire.  Projects that cannot receive funding from other sources.  Projects that would not be competitive for other water infrastructure money.  Many acequias rely on legislative capital outlay resources to operate; for new presas and pipes, for diversions and repairs.

This year ALL of that acequia money, appropriated by legislators to individual acequias, was vetoed by the Governor. 

Projects in the acequia de Anton Chico, the acequia de Bado de Paiz, the acequia del Hormigoso and the acequia de Tecolotito in Guadalupe county.  Projects for the acequia del Alto al Norte in Mora county.  Projects for the Tularosa community ditch association in Tularosa in Otero county.  Projects for the acequia de Atras de la Plaza, the Salazar community ditch in Hernandez, and the acequia de Ojo Sarco in Rio Arriba county. Projects for the acequia Madre de Las Vegas and the acequia Madre de Villanueva  in San Miguel county.  Projects for acequias in the Jemez river basin in Sandoval county. Projects for the acequia del Barranco de Jacona in the Pojoaque area, the Alto ditch and Canadita ditch in the Rio en Medio ditch association, the acequia de Los Fresquez, the acequia de la Cienega and El Guicu ditch, the acequia de Los Maestas in La Puebla, the acequia del Llano in the Nambe area, and the acequia de Las Joyas in Santa Fe county.  Projects for the acequia de Llano de San Juan de Nepomuceno, the Cerro de Guadalupe acequia association, the acequia de Chamisal y Ojito, and the acequia del Monte del Rio Chiquito in Taos county.

Twenty five projects in all.  Almost one million dollars in capital outlay that had been appropriated by local legislators, mindful of the need, to critical projects.  Gone with the swipe of a veto pen.  Many of these acequia systems had never seen a dime of capital outlay money before.

This is the political age we live in.  Where our traditions and culture are no longer valued or supported.  Where our way of life becomes a political football to those who are trying to send a message.

This is the political system in which the acequia system has to survive.  And without capital outlay money, it may go extinct.

Funding that the Legislature appropriated to the New Mexico Acequia Commission* remains intact, but it is a minimal $94,000, a pittance compared to the need and what was vetoed.

It’s too late for this year. The deed is done and the Governor has killed these projects. But it’s not too late to let her know what our acequias mean to New Mexico. The Governor’s office can be reached at 505-476-2200.


*Editors Note: An earlier version of this opinion piece mistakenly stated that the non-profit New Mexico Acequia Association was the recipient of a $97,000 appropriation. It is the state run New Mexico Acequia Commission that received the appropriation in the amount of $94,000.