SENATE BILL 440
51st legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2013
RELATING TO WATER; PROVIDING FOR THE INTERSTATE STREAM COMMISSION TO ACQUIRE, RETIRE, PROTECT AND CONSERVE WATER RIGHTS AND CONSERVE WATER IN THE LOWER RIO GRANDE BASIN; MAKING AN APPROPRIATION.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. LOWER RIO GRANDE--WATER RIGHTS ACQUISITION, RETIREMENT, PROTECTION AND CONSERVATION.--
A. The legislature finds that:
(1) a severe imbalance exists among water rights holders reliant on Rio Grande water supply, New Mexico obligations under the Rio Grande Compact, demands on water supplied upstream of the lower Rio Grande project and water supply made available to the lower Rio Grande basin of New Mexico;
(2) the imbalance is threatening the economic well-being of the state and the area comprising the lower Rio Grande basin and is causing significant economic losses and undue hardship for all residents in the basin;
(3) although priority administration remains the law of New Mexico, the state engineer has concluded that priority administration is only a last resort; and
(4) a mechanism needs to be in place to protect water rights, retire water rights and conserve water so that a balance will be restored between water uses statewide and water supplied to the lower Rio Grande basin.
B. The interstate stream commission shall enter into contracts with the governing body of the Elephant Butte irrigation district that specify the actions to be taken or avoided by each party to ensure that the expenditure of the money appropriated in Section 2 of this act by the commission will be effective toward compliance with New Mexico's obligations under the Rio Grande Compact, the Rio Grande project and water rights that are senior and entitled to protection under the constitution of New Mexico.
C. The interstate stream commission, after consultation with the governing board of the Elephant Butte irrigation district, the lower Rio Grande water users organization and other water managers and water rights holders in the lower Rio Grande basin, shall determine the need for projects to be funded. Expenditures shall be made only for projects that:
(1) augment or import water into the lower Rio Grande basin;
(2) improve efficiencies in the delivery of Rio Grande project water;
(3) purchase, lease or otherwise acquire water rights from willing sellers and, if appropriate, appurtenant land;
(4) protect water rights, retire water rights or include other measures designed to correct the imbalances among water rights holders, senior water rights, New Mexico obligations under the Rio Grande Compact and water actually supplied to the lower Rio Grande basin; or
(5) promote water conservation, including restoration of native vegetation and other water supply enhancement measures.
D. If, at any time, the interstate stream commission determines that the total water rights purchased pursuant to this section are in excess of those water rights permanently needed for compliance with priority administration, senior water rights and New Mexico's obligations under the Rio Grande Compact, then the commission shall offer the excess water rights for sale to the private sector. By rule, the commission shall establish procedures for the sale, and any revenue received as a result of the sale shall be deposited in the New Mexico irrigation works construction fund.
SECTION 2. APPROPRIATION.--One hundred twenty million dollars ($120,000,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the interstate stream commission for expenditure in fiscal year 2014 and subsequent fiscal years to acquire, retire, protect and conserve water rights and conserve water in the lower Rio Grande basin. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of a fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund.
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