THE six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos in New Mexico formally requested a seat at the table at the annual Rio Grande Compact meeting in Alamosa on Friday. The Pueblos are Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Sandia and Isleta.

“New Mexico’s Pueblos are the oldest irrigators in the Rio Grande Valley and the six of us in the Middle Rio Grande work collectively to manage and protect our water rights and water resources,” said Pueblo Isleta Governor Vernon Abeyta. “It is now time the coalition interacts with the commission directly and for the commission to engage the coalition Pueblos so that our voices can be heard. Today we are calling for a seat at the table with issues concerning our water rights and resources being discussed and decisions made.”

The request was anticipated as owners of water rights up and down the Rio Grande from the San Luis Valley to El Paso, Texas, sound alarms about the state of the basin. The Rio Grande Compact meeting brings together water commissioners from Colorado, New Mexico and Texas to hear reports on the condition of the Rio Grande as well as environmental and fish and wildlife recovery efforts.

“Currently our water resources are being adversely affected and or threatened by the ongoing mega-drought and climate changes,” Abeyta said. The Pueblo coalition said it was also concerned the current litigation between Texas and New Mexico could expand into the middle and upper valleys of the Rio Grande.

Rio Grande Compact commissioners representing New Mexico and Texas said mediation to resolve Texas’ claim that New Mexico owes it more water should result in a settlement before the case goes to trial in October.

“I do believe we are on a very good path,” said New Mexico Commissioner Mike Hamman.

The New Mexico Pueblos requested to be included in all communications of the Rio Grande Compact, the intergovernmental water manager meetings, and to be invited to future Rio Grande Compact meetings.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has represented the Pueblos at compact meetings, but Abeyta said the six Pueblos as a coalition now want to have their own representative on the commission.

The U.S. Department of Interior has established a federal assessment team to help the Pueblo coalition process and resolve its water rights claims, Abeyta said.

“The rights alone guarantee us enough water to irrigate over 20,000 acres of the coalition Pueblo lands,” he said.

Watch Abeyta’s full statement:

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