SANTA FE, N.M.— Today, a State District Court Judge upheld a decision to keep a New York based corporation from appropriating 54,000 acre-feet of public groundwater per year from the San Augustin basin in Catron County, NM. Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC had filed an appeal in April seeking to overturn the New Mexico State Engineer’s decision to deny the application.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center, the organization that led the fight to stop the appropriation and which represents more than 80 residents from the area, had filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the application.
“Our clients are very pleased with the decision,” says Bruce Frederick of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “The judge’s decision confirmed what 150 years of water law has already established — you can’t take the public’s water unless you have a concrete beneficial use for the water. This corporation is trying to hoard the water until its value increased enough to justify selling it. The decision today is an important step towards protecting New Mexico from rampant water speculation.”
The application, first filed in 2007, was originally protested by close to 1000 individuals, ranches, businesses and government agencies. The protestants had a variety of concerns, including that the application would impair existing water rights, deplete flows in the Rio Grande and Gila River stream systems, dry up springs, and harm fragile ecologies.
The State Engineer denied Augustin Plains Ranch’s application for several reasons, including that the application omitted basic critical details required by law—how, when, where, and in what quantities the corporation intended to use water.
“The corporation may petition a higher court for relief,” says Frederick, “and if it does, we will continue to work to protect New Mexico’s most precious resource from those who wish to monopolize it.”
You may download a copy of the decision here.
The mission of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center is to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and achieve environmental justice for New Mexico’s communities through legal representation, policy advocacy and public education. The New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s attorneys have handled over 100 critical cases in low-income and minority communities fighting pollution and environmental degradation. The NMELC charges few, if any, fees to its clients, most of who are from Hispanic and Native American communities. The NMELC celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Membership and gifts help New Mexico communities protect their natural environment and their health from toxic pollution, the degrading effects of growth and liabilities created by irresponsible mining. Contact: Shelbie Knox, Development Officer 505-989-9022, ext. 29.