March 16, 2023

Acequia disaster relief bill heads to governors desk


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

A bill that would allow funding from the Acequia and Community Ditch Fund to be used for disaster response passed the House of Representatives on a 64-3 vote on Wednesday.

SB 176 now heads to the governor’s desk. 

Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, attempted to amend the bill to include a three-year sunset date.

But, Rep. Susan Herrea, D-Embudo, said it is a small fund of $2.5 million annually that has to be used by more than 700 acequias. Herrera presented the bill to the House of Representatives.

Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, argued that the use of the fund for disaster response should be revisited in three years to ensure that it does not deplete the fund. He expressed support for Armstrong’s amendment.

Armstrong said that the bill would help provide matching funds for federal programs and that it is great for acequias, but she said she would also like to revisit it in three years.

Rep. Jack Chatfield, R-Mosquero, said the fund cannot be depleted because it is interest generated by the Irrigation Works Construction Fund. The Irrigation Works Construction Fund is essentially a trust fund that was set up in 1953 to provide a permanent revenue stream for irrigation projects.

The amendment was ultimately tabled.

Republican Representatives John Block of Alamogordo, Candy Ezzell of Roswell and Randall Pettigrew of Lovington voted against the bill.