Santolina - The Unbearable Lightness of Planning
Carrying Water for Santolina

Water Authority: Santolina Ducks in a Row

Everything is just ducky with water and water planning in New Mexico. Land developers and business interests especially like the way things are working with the state's largest water utility.  SB 609* would change the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to an elected board.** There was more testimony Monday from the big guns.

The legislature created the ABCWUA in 2003. Present membership is a musical chair arrangement of city councillors, county commissioners and the mayor. Busy elected officials with competing responsibilities and assertive staff mean oversight is lax. Most residents and legislators are unaware of problems. Most information is characterized by the  congratulatory back-patting about lower water consumption. 

Meanwhile debt has ballooned from $260 million to $920 million since the authority's creation. And that isn't for fixing what's breaking. Expenditures have exceeded revenues for the past six years. Goals and objectives presented to the authority board are moving targets. There have been OSHA and civil rights complaints and multiple EPA discharge violations. Executive decision making has little oversight and the chief executive sits on the only state board that might otherwise rein in the city's voracious water appetite through control of transfers - the Interstate Stream Commission.

Yet one lobbyist used the word "wonderful" over four times to describe how well the water authority is working, especially at coordination between water and land use. The authority's own lobbyist stated that it was created because residents of Bernalillo County's north and south valley were not getting served.

At this point truth took a meander, in other words.

When the water authority was dreamed-up, policy makers were concerned about water and sewer extension, but not to valley areas. Albuquerque's policy of requiring annexation for service hook-up was long-changed and valley service extensions to existing residents, funded by the legislature, had proceeded at a brisk pace for years before that. It was service to undeveloped western Bernalillo County that was contested.

It was also the threat of coordinated land use and water policy that led to creation in the first place. The city's Planned Growth Strategy that began in 1997 provided the impetus. PGS would have used water and sewer fees to manage growth just as it would eventually use impact fees to a much reduced, and now largely defunct, effect.

Unlike cities and counties, the authority's statutorily defined functions don't include land use planning or following land use plans.***   And commissioners and planning hearing attendees are regularly reminded they don't get to decide water service areas or availability.

The water authority doesn't have land use review responsibility  and the city and county don't make decisions about water anymore. It is difficult not to conclude that this separation wasn't deliberate, especially given the timing with the city's large-scale planning effort.

Without a trace of irony, the representative for Western Albuquerque Land Holdings, owner of the  proposed "Santolina" plan,  said changing the water authority board to elected representatives might mean control by "interest groups with an agenda different from the general public."  

I think he really means  different interest groups.

 

 

 

*Senate Rules Committee passed the bill Monday and it will be heard  in Senate Conservation Thursday. It mirrored a House bill I wrote about here, killed by Representative Ezzell's House Ag and water committee earlier in the session.


**My fervent hope is that a new board would also change the name.


***Not that municipalities or counties do, because NM has incredibly weak laws and bad precedents in this regard, which only sharpens my point.

Comments

Atrisco Heir

BARCLAYS, Mascaraing under this name WALH to AVOID the negative perception of numerous world wide ethics issues that have arise. The Land Grant holds a Land Patent with Perfect title. Big business comes in and bullies the local folks by taking bold moves, the states sue me. And the local elected officials take money from them.
Ask you local representative where they stand on this and make the give you a Written statement.

ChimayĆ³so

New Mexico Acequia Association: "CALL TO ACTION from Don Bustos - Santolina Protest and March http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?ca=dc39768b-41f0-454a-92ac-1b142c23b285&c=7d750dc0-36c4-11e3-8508-d4ae52754db0&ch=7e7789a0-36c4-11e3-8607-d4ae52754db0#LETTER.BLOCK4
"On March 25th at 12 PM I will be driving my tractor to Civic Plaza in Albuquerque. The county commissioners will have a hearing about the Santolina Development this day at 1:30 PM.
I will be doing this as part of a planned event organized by the Contra Santolina working group. We are working to stop the Santolina Master Plan that is trying develop 13,000 acres in the South Valley. The Santolina Development would build 38,000 new houses. It would jeopardize farming by taking water away from agricultural use. This is why I am asking you to join me on Wed March 25th at 12pm.
AFSC, NM Acequia Assoc, SV Acequia Assoc, SWOP, CeSOSS, South Valley Neighborhood Coalition and dozens of other groups will be marching with me. This is a peaceful and legal march." (Don Bustos)

The comments to this entry are closed.