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Pecos River Bureau inquires about local water rights

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A state water agency bureau chief would like local water district directors to consider selling some water rights.

Members of the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District board of directors have been asked by Pecos River Bureau Chief Hannah Riseley-White of the Interstate Stream Commission to consider selling the bureau up to 850 acres of water rights.

The conversation is in its initial stages, as Risely-White and a colleague acknowledged during a Tuesday PVACD board meeting that many questions remain about whether other people would have a right to bid and whether the New Mexico Legislature or other entities would need to give approval.

Risely-White explained that the PVACD has had a memorandum of agreement (MOA), renewed several times, with the Pecos River Bureau since 2008 that has given the bureau rights to 850 acres of water rights in the local district. Under the agreement, the bureau has transferred about 500 acres of the 850 acres allowed to Lake Arthur and Seven Rivers well fields.

The water rights are needed to help the bureau meet the requirements of a legal settlement concerning water usage with the Carlsbad area and under a larger legal compact involving Texas.

“So the request for you all is the consideration of whether or not PVACD would be willing to sell some portion of those water rights that are currently subject to the MOA,” Risely-White said.

The bureau received $1 million in 2014 from the Legislature to meet settlement requirements. From that money, the bureau has about $530,000 left to be spent by June 2020, with Risely-White saying that she would like to use the funds to purchase water rights. She said the appointment of a new Interstate Stream Commission head, however, could change those plans.

She said, whether the district wants to sell the water rights or not, she would like to see another one-year extension of the MOA. She asked the board to let her know by the end of June so that she can decide whether to explore other options, including buying the rights from private water owners in the Roswell basin area.