Letters to the editor (08/21/14)

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Water project doesn’t benefit counties
Are you incensed? Well if you are not, you should be.
The Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC just filed another amended application for 54,000 acre feet of water on the Plains of San Agustin. In their new application, they only want the water for export to the Rio Rancho and Albuquerque area, to include the Middle Rio Grande area. None of it is to be applied to the ranch property. The permit only lists the following beneficial uses: municipal, industrial, commercial, and other (to offset surface water depletions, replacement, sale and/or lease).
This water mining project is not for the benefit of Catron and Socorro Counties; it is targeted for the upper portion of the Middle Rio Grande Basin. There will be no royalties or other payments to offset the loss of this water for the counties. The adjacent land owners and most of the properties in the north basin of the San Augustin Plains will have their property values greatly diminished due to the lack of available ground water.
The north basin will also undergo hydrocompaction and deferential settlement, with a strong likelihood of tension cracks forming due to the types of sediments from which the ground water is being extracted. (These sediments were saturated with water soon after their deposition when water was able to attach to the sediment grains keeping them apart. As the sediments accumulated some of the water got squeezed out and forced into the more open-pored sediments.) When over pumping occurs, the water holding the sediment particles apart can no longer add to supporting environment and sediments collapse into each other. With hydrocompaction, once the ground water is extracted there is no possibility of recharging the aquifer.
Dr. Frank Titus, a hydrogeologist, told me in a personal communication, before his passing; that he thought that the pumping being proposed would deplete the basin in about 10 years. The question then is what are the options when no water is available in the north basin? Your county commissioners need to address this problem, as well as those of you who are reading this article.
The Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC proposal also states that they intend to recharge the basin as they are pumping down the water table. In this environmental setting that is just ludicrous. We are in the sixth week of our monsoon season, and no water has yet flowed down any of the ephemeral channels in this part of the basin. Their idea that they can capture this overland flow and put it back into the ground before it is lost to evaporation is just plain stupid.
The water that occasionally flows out onto the plains is used by the native plants and the ranchers that have property below these draws. If the Augustin Plains Ranch blocks these draws with structures to divert the flows, that would be considered a “taking” and would require additional permits from the state engineer. Any structure like those being proposed is a point of diversion and requires a permit from the state which I did not see in their application.
I would like to know what is the benefit to our counties; a couple of maintenance jobs and temporary construction jobs? This proposal only benefits some other part of the state and the Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC owners. We get our resources plundered to what end? If the citizens of our counties don’t care about this, then we deserve what happens if they prevail. We all need to protest in writing and make our voices heard.
Also, contact the San Augustin Water Coalition at
www. sanaugustinwatercoalition.net
Dennis Inman
Geologist