Crowds gathered in Socorro, New Mexico at the County Courthouse yesterday to hear oral argument on motions filed by various parties seeking to dismiss an application filed by Augustin Plains Ranch, LLC (APR) to appropriate 54,000 acre-feet of water to be used to off-set the effects of existing uses. If granted, the application would give APR the right to use and perfect the water rights contained in the resulting permit at no cost to itself. Speculation appears to be an inherent trait in applications seeking to transfer or appropriate large quantities of water and move it from rural areas to urban areas for economic gain. The application filed by APR states a very broad place of use that includes seven New Mexico counties and seeks every possible purpose of use for the water, since the end users and uses have not yet been identified.
Last year, then-State Engineer, John D’Antonio granted a similar motion to dismiss an application seeking to pipe water from Ft. Sumner to Santa Fe to sell for a profit. D’Antonio granted protestants’ motion to dismiss that application on the grounds that it did not supply enough information to allow the Office of the State Engineer to accurately evaluate whether the transfer would impair other water users’ water rights, be contrary to the conservation of water and/or detrimental to the public welfare, as required by statute. Although the issues presented at the hearing in Socorro were identical to the issues raised in the proceeding last year, there is no telling what the outcome will be, since new State Engineer, Scott Verhines, will decide the fate of this application.
Read the Albuquerque Journal’s article here (subscription required).