ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Oral arguments will be held tomorrow in the Aquifer Science water grab case. Residents are challenging developers’ attempts to resuscitate a failed water appropriation in a thinly veiled water speculation attempt. This case is an appeal of the 2014 decision by the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) denying Aquifer Science’s application for 717 acre-feet of water/year (afy) for a purported luxury development in the East Mountains.
Tuesday, June 13 at 1:30
Courtroom of Judge C. Shannon Bacon
2nd Judicial District, 400 Lomas Blvd, Albuquerque
*Cellphones not allowed in the courthouse
Aquifer Science, LLC, is comprised of Vidler Water Co. (95% owner) and its partner, Campbell Farming Corp. (5% owner). OSE denied the application, ruling that the basin has been fully appropriated and no water remains to be allocated. The original application for 1,500afy was filed in 2011; it has been challenged ever since by local residents who are represented by the non-profit, public-interest New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC).
In addition to the developers’ appeal, the judge will consider a request by NMELC (and a similar request by Bernalillo County) to throw out the case on the grounds that the applicants are trying to illegally speculate in water. In their Motion for Summary Judgment and subsequent Motion to Compel, NMELC Staff Attorney Jon Block and pro bono attorney Paul Hultin describe Vidler’s history of speculation, the shell corporations involved in the project, and the lack of a plan on the part of the developers to construct the resort/subdivision. (Under New Mexico water law, after an applicant obtains water rights, the applicant does not need to retain them for the use stated on the application – the applicant can sell them to the highest bidder.)
NMELC currently represents numerous individuals who comprise Deep Well Protest, North 14 and the San Pedro Creek Estates Homeowners Association which includes dozens of local residents whose access to water would be affected by new pumping.
NMELC and its clients won the administrative case when State Engineer Scott Verhines denied Aquifer Science’s application in November 2014. The decision prompted the developers to take the State Engineer to court. In an unusual move, current State Engineer Tom Blaine instructed his attorney to side with the water speculators in the case. (Verhines was fired by Governor Martinez in November 2014; Blaine replaced Verhines in December 2014).
New Mexico Environmental Law Center is celebrating 30 years of fighting for environmental justice for the people of New Mexico. The NMELC’s mission is to protect New Mexico’s communities and their air, land and water in the fight for environmental justice.
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