U.S. Water News Online
TAOS PUEBLO, N.M. -- A settlement that defines Taos
Pueblo's water rights has been signed, culminating years of
negotiations over a lawsuit filed in 1969.
The lawsuit centered around the pueblo's right to water in the Rio
Pueblo de Taos and Rio Hondo and involved not only the pueblo, but
also non-Indian water rights owners in the Taos Valley and state and
The state engineer's office said the agreement defines Taos
Pueblo's aboriginal water rights while compromising on how the pueblo
will exercise those rights in a way that protects non-Indian users
and future water supplies.
The agreement, signed by Taos Pueblo leaders, state officials,
acequia owners and other Taos Valley water users, will cost an
estimated $133 million, most of which is expected to come from the
New Mexico's congressional delegation praised the settlement
efforts in the case, known as New Mexico vs. Abeyta. However, Sen.
Pete Domenici, R-N.M., warned that "in this budget climate, all
parties involved must have reasonable expectations."
Negotiations toward a settlement began in 1989 when non-Indian
acequia owners approached the Taos Pueblo Tribal Council about the
possibility of a compromise.
Nelson Cordova, water rights coordinator for the pueblo, said the
talks were not always peaceful.
"We at times lost our cool," he said. "We probably said things we
shouldn't have. We said things we retracted. But in the end, I think
the humanity we exhibited allowed us to come to a good settlement."
Gov. Bill Richardson has promised state funding for the settlement
-- despite vetoing $75 million earlier this year for that settlement
and another, called the Aamodt lawsuit, involving a 40-year-old water
Return to the
U.S. Water News' Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.