New Mexico and Ohkay Owingeh governors sign Indian Water Rights Settlement

By: - September 5, 2023 4:00 am

Federal officials halted plans last week to spray insecticide in the Rio Chama. The original plan was requested by private landowners in the area. (Photo courtesy BLM)

The New Mexico and Ohkay Owingeh governors announced the signing of the Indian Water Rights Settlement for the Rio Chama stream system last week. The settlement allows for the Pueblo, nearby acequias and other neighbors to share resources in times of shortage.

If passed by the U.S. Congress, the settlement would also fund improvements to local water systems and restoration of the Bosque. Ohkay Owingeh Governor Larry Phillips said that after six decades of litigation, the settlement will secure water for the Pueblo’s current and future needs.

“One of our needs is our sacred areas. The bosque is important for our cultural resources that we gather and utilize in there,” he said.

He said its biggest impact is outlining how the Pueblo and its neighbors will determine priority usage in the case of a shortage, especially as water in the Rio Chama Basin declines. Phillips also said that he sees this as a first step.

“I believe further efforts outside of this more into the headwaters of these all have to take the same approach for all at the table to resolve an impact now and into the future,” he said.

Ohkay Owingeh and the state engineer will next bring the settlement to the state’s congressional delegation to advocate for it to be federally approved and funded.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. It is republished here with permission.

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Megan Myscofski
Megan Myscofski

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project. She previously worked as a Business and Economics Reporter at Arizona Public Media, where she also reported, produced and hosted a narrative podcast, Tapped, on the cost of drought in Arizona. Before that, she was a reporter and host at Montana Public Radio and an intern on the podcast "Threshold". Her first audio journalism internship was in Essen, Germany as a high school exchange student.