February 3, 2023

Bill to fund strategic water reserve passes Senate Conservation Committee

Hannah Grover

The San Juan River, a tributary of the Colorado River, is pictured downstream of Navajo Reservoir in New Mexico.

A bill that would appropriate $25 million for the state to acquire water rights to help meet interstate compact and endangered species requirements passed the Senate Conservation Committee on an 8-0 vote on Thursday.

This comes after last year’s allocation of $15 million to the state strategic water reserve was fully spent, Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerillos, said. That money helped the state secure a lease from Jicarilla Apache Nation for up to 20,000 acre feet of water in the San Juan River that was previously used for operations of the San Juan Generating Station.

SB 167 is sponsored by Stefanics and Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, as well as Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos.

The bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.

It was one of two water-related bills that the Senate Conservation Committee heard on Thursday.

The other bill, SB 200, would allow two water projects to enter into multi-term contracts for design and engineering work. It would apply to the Navajo-Gallup pipeline and the Ute Lake pipeline. Both projects have price tags of more than $500 million.

SB 200 is sponsored by Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup.

The bill passed on a 7-0 vote and now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.