USDA’s NRCS Dedicate Funds To Acequia Projects
HERNANDEZ – On Thursday, May 7, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller visited New Mexico and held an event in Hernandez to announce that New Mexico was recently approved to receive $9 million of assistance through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) at the Hernandez NRCS Office.
Mr. Weller chose Hernandez for the site of his announcement as one of the four New Mexico approved projects is a partnership with local and state organizations to support restoration of acequia infrastructure. Under the newly announced program NRCS funds will be matched against state and private organization funds to finance acequia and irrigation improvement projects throughout the state.
Xavier Montoya, NRCS State Conservationist of New Mexico explained that all partner organizations in the state have come together to develop an application process for local acequias which will then be scored and funds distributed from highest score and need down. $1 million of the NRCS funds have been allocated towards this specific project, which when leveraged with other funding sourcesprovides several million dollars in resources for acequia projects.
Mr. Weller went on to explain that this was the very first roll out of a RCPP project nationwide. He wanted to do this event in New Mexico with an acequia project after he first toured acequias in New Mexico in the summer of 2014 and came to understand how this ancient irrigation system is a “pioneering approach of how the NRCS can be working with local communities to support the projects the communities identify and important.”
In addition to the announcement event, Mr. Weller and local acequia officials toured the San Miguel Acequia, one of the oldest acequias in the United States.
State and local partnering organization include:
NM Acequia Commission
USDI, NM Bureau of Land Management
USDA, Forest Service Region 3
NM Department of Agriculture
NM Environment Department
NM Game and Fish Department
NMSU Extension Services
NM Cattle Growers Association
NM Farm and Livestock Bureau
Taos Soil and Water Conservation District
Tierra y Montes Soil and Water Conservation District
East Rio Arriba Soil & Water Conservation District
Mr. Weller ended the discussion on Thursday by reminding participants that this is teh first round of funding. A new funding opportunity worth $235 million nationwide has recently been announced and the New Mexico partners are encouraged to apply.
Chief Jason Weller completes his tour of acequias in New Mexico at the oldest continuously functioning acequia in the United States – the Acequia de Chamita. It has been in operation since 1597.
With Chief Weller are (left to right) Gilbert Borrego, NRCS New Mexico Acequia Civil Engineering Technician, Kenny Salazar, President of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts; and Bren van Dyke, 1st Vice President of the National Association of Conservation Districts. (Photo by Rey T. Adame)