On Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced three new positions focused on the federal funding that is coming to the state through the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law this week. Leading this effort is former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez, who will serve as New Mexico’s infrastructure chief strategist. Lujan Grisham said Chavez is an expert at getting stuff done and knows that, as important as projects like roads, water and bridges are, the infrastructure package is also about jobs and economic efforts. She said he also knows how hard it can be at the local level, particularly in smaller communities that don’t have the administrative resources to put the projects together. Mike Hamman, the chief engineer and CEO of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and a member of the Interstate Stream Commission, will be tasked with overseeing the water management effort and Matt Schmit is the advisor to the new Office of Broadband Access and Expansion.
As much of New Mexico faces exceptional drought conditions, the Interstate Stream Commission authorized its chairman to ask the Department of Interior for financial support. The commission approved delegating that authority to commission chairman during its meeting on Friday. The chairman will work with State Engineer John D’Antonio to request funding for both long-term and short-term drought relief. The short-term relief could be something like assistance for farmers, said ISC Director Rolf Schmidt-Peterson. “Help them make it through this year so that the economic impacts are not so severe that they can no longer farm,” he said.
This spring has already been a busy one for water managers. The Rio Grande and its acequias and irrigation ditches are currently full and forecasters predict more snow for the mountains this weekend. Unlike many years over the past two decades, when water managers wondered how to spread out water deliveries to farmers and growers so everyone makes it through the growing season, this year the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) is watching for a different problem, one born of high water levels—the pressure on levees. “It’s feast or famine,” said Mike Hamman, chief engineer of the district, which delivers water to irrigators from Cochiti dam to Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. It’s also election season in the district.