March 9, 2023

Acequia disaster response funding bill passes Senate


La Canova Acequia near Velarde, New Mexico. Public domain.

A bill to help acequias respond to disasters passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday. 

SB 176 would increase the amount of funding that the Acequia and Community Ditch Infrastructure fund receives annually from the Irrigation Works Construction fund.

“During the fire that happened in northern New Mexico, our acequias were devastated,” co-sponsor Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, said. 

Jaramillo said the acequias were impacted by the spring runoff that brought “all of that debris down off the hill” and also when people had to go in to fight the fire.

He said SB 176 would ensure that funding is available to the acequias “when money is needed during a disaster to ensure that they’re protected so that waters continue to flow.”

“Our acequias have been filled with silt,” co-sponsor Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, said. 

Should SB 176 become law, Campos said that in the future damage to the acequias can be addressed. He said hopefully that can occur before the snowmelt. 

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said “it’s the right time to do this. It’s the right time to be proactive.”

He said SB 176 creates a fund that “can be tapped into it just the right time and for the right purpose.”

The legislation now heads to the House of Representatives.

The bill is sponsored by senators Campos, Jaramillo, Liz Stefanics, D-Cerillos, Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City, and Rep. Ambrose Castellano, D-Las Vegas.