August 17, 2017

Augustin Plains Ranch order released, meetings scheduled on controversial water project

Laura Paskus

Near the town of Magdalena, signs protest the proposed San Augustin Ranch water project

A few weeks ago, we reported on a proposal by Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC to build a pipeline and pump 54,000 acre-feet of water each year from the aquifer to the Albuquerque area. The 37 wells would all be in Catron County near the town of Datil.

Now in its third iteration, the application is pending before the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, which administers the state’s water resources.

In July, the state agency canceled a pre-hearing meeting. But last week, it released the application’s scheduling order, which includes information about the project and the process, as well as upcoming public meetings. It also lays out legal procedures for the application process through June 2019.

According to the order, about 600 protests were filed with the Office of the State Engineer over the application. Not all of those will be considered, however.

A total of 234 people failed to pay their $25 hearing fees, for example. Those protests have been dismissed. And more than 100 people either didn’t include their mailing address or failed to update the state with a current address. Those protests will be dismissed unless people provide their current address to the state before September 28, or provide it at a public meeting scheduled in Socorro that day.

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center represents a group opposed to the plan that includes 85 people and three landowner associations. The Domenici Law Firm represents another five parties.

The U.S. Department of the Interior had opposed the application initially. But in May, it withdrew that protest.

The public meeting will be held on Thursday, September 28 at 6 p.m. at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center in Socorro.

To read the entire order, click here.