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September 19, 2018
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Revisiting the Aamodt water rights settlement (Podcast)
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From Monday's At Noon midday report: Santa Fe County has released the results of a poll about the Aamodt water settlement in the Pojoaque Valley. The results show that more than half are against it, either firmly or somewhat opposed. County Commissioner Harry Montoya says he was surprised at the poll's results. He says he thought the county had did a good deal of outreach, trying to explain it. But the poll results indicate that the more people knew about the water settlement, the more they oppose it.

What is the Aamodt agreement? It's an argument that's been in court for more than 40 years. The state of New Mexico filed a lawsuit in 1966 to sort out the ownership water rights in the Pojoaque Valley north of Santa Fe. But over the following four decades, it has entangled four native American pueblos and hundreds of Hispanic and Anglo landowners.

When the state first filed the lawsuit, no one knew which water law applied to the pueblos. But 20 years later, a federal judge ruled that pueblos were entitled to aboriginal water rights based on the acreage they had traditionally irrigated. Although that ruling would give them less water than under other federal options, it would also give them more than allowed under state law. It would also have allowed them first priority over most water in the basin. That meant that if the pueblos called in their full water rights during a drought, every acequia would go dry. So the parties sought a settlement.

What emerged is where we are today - the pueblos would settle for less water than they're entitled to and also agree not to make a priority call on the basin's acequias. In exchange, the federal government would acquire rights to 2,500 acre feet of water in the Rio Grande and build a pipeline to deliver it to the pueblos. The pipeline would be extended to the rest of the basin as a county-run water utility, and domestic well use would be curtailed.

With that long background to set the stage, the last public meeting on this subject was held this past January. It was before the poll of Pojoaque Valley residents was taken. KSFR's Marion Cox was there

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