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Jicarilla Apache Nation leases water in New Mexico | Environment

Jicarilla Apache Nation leases water in New Mexico | Environment

Recently, the Jicarilla Apache Nation agreed to lease water up to 20,000 feet, or more than 6.5 billion gallons per annum, to New Mexico.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation (ISC), the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the global environmental organization The Nature Conservancy agreed that water from the Navajo Reservoir will be released into the San Juan River (a tributary to the Colorado River) under a 10-year water leasing agreement.

According to the Nature Conservancy, the West is currently experiencing severe drought. Water shortages are occurring in the Colorado River Basin. The water lease will help to increase the water levels in this basin.

Maggie Fitzgerald, a spokesperson from the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, stated in a written declaration that the additional water flow would benefit the Razorback Sucker as well as the Colorado Pikeminnow, both endangered species of fish.

Many factors prompted this agreement. From the perspective ISC, these factors included availability and trends in hydrology over the past few decades, as well as making plans for future water security. Fitzgerald’s statement states that endangered fish are just one factor.

She explained that the ISC may not be able to lease all of the water available each year, depending on the available funding.

She stated that the agreement will support economic development of the Jicarilla Indian Nations.

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The Nation has settled its water rights in 1991 and the Nation can market any water it doesn’t use within the settlement provisions, according to Daryl Vigil, Jicarilla Apache Nations water administrator.

Vigil stated that this will provide additional income and help to offset the losses at a regional coal-fired power plant that is closing.

Vigil stated that the agreement is the foundation for the collaboration between the Nation and the State and that tribal sovereignty is recognized.

This strengthens, hopefully, the partnership we’re creating in terms building a framework, which is a tribal framework to renegotiate the operational guidelines for Colorado River. Vigil said.

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