February 9, 2023

Prescribed burn restrictions, regional water bill pass Senate unanimously

USDA Forest Service

The Senate passed two bills on Thursday related to the environment. The first bill would ban prescribed burning during red flag conditions and the second would enable small mutual domestic water systems to come together to form regional water authorities without needing separate legislation for each partnership.

Both bills now head to the House of Representatives.

Prescribed burn 

The bill prohibiting prescribed burning when red flag conditions exist received a bipartisan 36-0 vote.

SB21 is sponsored by Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo. 

“This bill sends an important message across the state,” Griggs said.

He said the state has seen too many instances of prescribed burns getting out of control.

The bill comes as a response to last year’s Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire.

While the state forester opposed the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Griggs said she contacted him later on and withdrew that opposition.

Regional water

The bill to allow for regional water authorities passed on a 33-0 vote.

SB1 is sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerillos, and Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo.

The bill would not force entities to join regional authorities if they do not want to, but proponents say that it could create more water resiliency.

“We’re going to have to get beyond the notion of water being something that we fight over,” Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said.

Cervantes previously sponsored legislation that created a regional water authority in southern New Mexico.