U.S. Water News Online
CARLSBAD, N.M. -- A water dispute among southeastern New
Mexico farmers, environmentalists and federal agencies is brewing on
the Pecos River.
Carlsbad Irrigation District Manager Tom Davis plans to release
water from Fort Sumner Reservoir this month, regardless of whether
it's approved by federal officials.
If Davis can't reach a compromise with the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the release,
he said there could be a standoff at the reservoir gates. He added
that he hopes it doesn't come to that.
The Carlsbad district stores its water at Fort Sumner Reservoir in
DeBaca County. The bureau controls the reservoir and its facilities.
If the problem isn't settled soon, Davis said he will defy the two
agencies and order his dam tender to release 20,000 acre-feet of
water for farmers downstream.
``They can call in the National Guard, and I may leave handcuffed,
but I'm going to see that our farmers get their water,'' Davis said.
A bureau official told Davis the agency will not allow the release
because a federal court directive to the bureau and Fish and Wildlife
in December has yet to be followed.
Davis said the problem stems from a lawsuit filed by Forest
Guardians against the bureau for allegedly not complying with the
Endangered Species Act.
``The judge ordered that the (bureau) conduct a biological
assessment, meaning they had to formulate a plan and show the court
how they plan to operate the reservoir in 2003,'' Davis said.
The Santa Fe-based environmental group accused the bureau of not
allowing enough water into the Pecos River, endangering the bluntnose
shiner's existence. The shiner is listed as a threatened species.
Davis said the bureau has complied with the order, but the judge
also ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a no-jeopardy
biological opinion on the bureau's biological assessment, and that
has yet to be done.
Ken Maxey, area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation's
Albuquerque area office, said he is ``cautiously optimistic'' the
issue will be resolved soon. However, the agency will not allow any
water released until the Fish and Wildlife Service issues its
``We are required to get the Fish and Wildlife Service assessment
on our water operations on the Pecos,'' Maxey said. ``As part of
that, we have to provide them some information on some options we
have on how we can meet the river flows for the bluntnose shiner.''
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