Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Conservancy District Awarded Irrigation Works Title

Roberto E. Rosales / Journal
The Rio Grande near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in December 2020. The US Bureau of Reclamation has transferred ownership of irrigation systems and land from southern Isleta Pueblo to north of Bosque del Apache back to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

Copyright © 2021

Local and state water authorities gathered in Albuquerque last week to sign an agreement transferring the title of regional irrigation canals and dams from the federal government back to the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

The transfer of ownership from the US Bureau of Reclamation to the Local Irrigation Authority includes facilities and land from the area south of Isleta Pueblo to north of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

The transfer also includes 4 miles of the Albuquerque Riverside Drain north of Isleta.

Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary of the US Department of Water and Science, said the transfer is possible because the two agencies have had a decade-long “relationship of trust” to preserve irrigation systems and wildlife habitats.

“That level of collaboration and coordination has never been more important than it is today between all water users and tribes on the central Rio Grande,” said Trujillo.

In 1951 the district signed a contract with Reclamation for the repair of the irrigation infrastructure and the construction of further flood protection systems.

The district took over most of the operation and maintenance of the facilities in the 1970s. In 1999, the MRGCD repaid the complaint for the construction and repairs in full.

MRGCD Board Chair Karen Dunning said the title transfer was a “really big deal” that will accelerate initiatives like the Bernalillo to Belen levee project.

The $ 310 million project involves repairing or rebuilding more than 40 miles of levees along the river to prevent harmful flooding.

“Because the title is free of federal ownership, the district can use federal funds to continuously invest in improving system efficiency as we face future water scarcity,” said Dunning.

Mike Hamman, the district’s chief engineer and CEO, said a “handful” of landowning licenses for easements and access are now open.

“We no longer require (reclamation) pre-approval licensing agreements for intersections, even minor land sales that have been pre-held pending this transfer of ownership,” said Hamman.

Congress reviewed and approved the broadcast.

Theresa Davis is a member of the Report for America Corps, a water and environmental researcher for the .

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