Grant County sets aside $600,000 to help acequias that lack immediate state aid

Funding will get water running again, but more repairs will be needed after that

By: - February 23, 2023 5:00 am
Water flows off of a concrete diversion.

A diversion on the Mimbres River in southern New Mexico. Pictured on Feb. 21, 2023. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Grant County commissioners in southern New Mexico said they’ll hand over $600,000 to help repair broken acequia systems that need money to start work in the coming weeks.

The Black Fire and subsequent flooding damaged acequias last year. This means water isn’t flowing in acequias in Grant County. In many areas, ditches are full of silt and debris. Some areas that used to be pathways for water are flooded with broken concrete pieces and other debris.

Farmers and ranchers need to start irrigating their ditches in March. They don’t have money to fix up the damage that would cost tens of thousands of dollars per system.

The clock is ticking. 

A concrete culvert with some dirt falling into it has logs and tree branches piled next to it. A construction machine stands over the culver in the distance.
An acequia steward is in the process of removing debris like logs from his culvert in Mimbres, N.M. Pictured on Feb. 21, 2023. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Justin Gojkovich is the Grant County emergency manager. He said there are 18 public ditches that are eligible for the $600,000  funding. The goal is for stewards that manage acequia systems to get water flowing again.

Acequia stewards have to apply for county funding by Feb. 28 and request the exact amount they need for their work.

Grant County officials should announce how much money acequia stewards will be getting on March 3. Gojkovich said if all their paperwork is in order, then a check should be cut within a matter of days.

Anyone who gets part of the grant has to turn in progress reports to the county over the next year, according to the application. All grant dollars must be spent by March 31, 2024.

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Gojkovich said this funding won’t cover all of the repairs acequias stewards need, only very basic work. Stewards will need other state or private dollars for other fixes needed in the future.

“This isn’t meant to be cure-all,” Gojkovich said. “This is meant to get water back into the ditches.”

He said if the stewards need more money to get water running than what the county allocated, the commissioners said they would need to meet again to talk about setting aside more funding.

Danny Roybal is a mayordomo of the ditches who watches over the Grijalva area in Mimbres, N.M. He said he thinks that $600,000 will barely get the water moving across the county acequias.

A man stands up between two people in a conference room to ask a question.
Mayordomo Danny Roybal asks questions at a disaster recovery workshop on Feb. 22, 2023 in Silver City. Grant County Emergency Manager Justin Gojkovich sits to the left. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Basic functionality is the priority right now, he said, so ranchers and farmers can start irrigating as soon as possible.

He said there will be a lot more work to do in the future with all the damage across the Grant County acequia and ditch systems.

“There’s just too much between the Mimbres and the Gila,” Roybal said. “There’s just too much.”

State dollars still aren’t here. It’s been almost half a year.

This local funding comes in lieu of financial state disaster aid that has yet to arrive for acequias.

In September 2022, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order that allocated $750,000 to repair and prevent flooding damage in Grant County. Acequia stewards are still trying to get their paperwork in order to qualify for those funds. 

To date, they haven’t received any of those dollars.

Gojkovich said the Grant County commissioners have taken the matter of helping acequias into their own hands now.

“In six days, seven days, that’s the beginning of the irrigation season,” he said. “So the county took it upon themselves to say, ‘Hey, we’ll get this money to help.’”

A man talks into a microphone, holding up a paper with his other hand.
Justin Gojkovich talks to acequia stewards at a disaster recovery workshop on Feb. 22, 2023 in Silver City. (Photo by Megan Gleason / Source NM)

Gojkovich said another reason the county is putting aside this $600,000 is because it could help acequia stewards actually get the state emergency funding later on.

The governor’s executive order only covers 75% of work done via reimbursement. The rest of the bill is up to local officials to pay.

Affording that is impossible for many acequia associations.

That’s where the county grant comes in. Stewards can prove they’re paying for 25% of the work by using allocations from the $600,000 grant. Then, the state can reimburse the other three-quarters of the cost.

Getting those state disaster funds will be a much longer process, though, and Gojkovich said this county grant is immediate relief to make acequias at least functional.


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Megan Gleason
Megan Gleason

Megan Gleason is a journalist based in Albuquerque. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. Other work has appeared under the New Mexico Press Association as well as in the Independent, Gallup Sun and Silver City Daily Press.