Ranchers fight for rights to Pecos River

CARLSBAD – Ranchers in a southeastern New Mexico community and a potash company are locked in a fight over water rights connected to the Pecos River.

The Denver-based Intrepid Potash recently claimed ownership of about 35,000 acre-feet of water rights along the Pecos, with 19,000 identified for consumption, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reports.

Ranchers in a rural area south of Carlsbad said that move could completely drain the Pecos.

In response to the Intrepid Potash claims, the Carlsbad Irrigation District filed litigation intended to block Intrepid’s ownership of the water and seven “preliminary authorizations” granted by the Office of the State Engineer to change the point of diversion and manner of use of the water.

The Carlsbad Irrigation District’s attorney Ken Dugan said Intrepid hadn’t used that much water in decades, essentially leaving its water rights unused for up to 50 years.

He said if water rights aren’t used for an extended amount of time, they are forfeited.

Dugan at a Carlsbad Irrigation District board meeting earlier this month alleged Intrepid intended to sell the water to the oil and gas industry, as the Potash mining industry suffered in recent years.

If Intrepid took that much water out of the Pecos, Dugan also worried New Mexico could fail to deliver water to Texas, as required under the Pecos River Compact, a 1948 agreement between the two states that saw New Mexico providing water from the Pecos River, which crosses into Texas, to the Lone Star State.

Last month, 5th Judicial District Judge Ray Romero ruled that Intrepid must stop pumping water under the seven preliminary authorizations as he rules on Intrepid’s rights to the water.

The authorizations, not official permits, in question were granted “unilaterally” by former State Engineer Thomas Blaine, read the CID’s lawsuit, to move and place into effect water rights on the river without any public input or hearings.

Intrepid’s attorney Chuck Dumars declined to comment, saying it was his office’s policy that he “cannot discuss ongoing litigation.”

Intrepid is a potash and fertilizer producer.

 

Source: Albuquerque Journal

https://www.abqjournal.com/1435822/ranchers-potash-company-in-fight-over-pecos-river-rights.html

Photo Source: (Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)

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