SANTA FE, N.M.—Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Senator Jeff Bingaman today joined leaders from four Pueblos—the Tesuque, Nambe, Pojoaque and San Ildefonso—at the Santa Fe Indian School to celebrate the implementation of the historic New Mexico vs. Aamodt water rights settlement.
“I am proud of the water settlements signed by President Obama because they will deliver clean drinking water to Indian communities like yours,” said Secretary Salazar. “The one we celebrate today—the ‘Aamodt' water rights settlement-- resolves decades of litigation, will improve certainty for water users, and will create jobs through much-needed infrastructure investments.”
“I join in welcoming Secretary Salazar to the Santa Fe Indian School to celebrate the enactment of the Aamodt water settlement,” said Senator Bingaman, who authored the bill that settled this long-standing legal case. “This settlement is the product of years of negotiation, and I want to thank everyone who helped see it through to completion.”
The Aamodt water rights settlement ended more than four decades of litigation –often described as one of the longest running cases in the federal court system—over water rights related to the Rio Pojoaque Basin north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, homeland to the four Pueblos. It provided finality to the Pueblos' water rights and certainty to non-Indian water rights in north central New Mexico.
Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Mike Connor , and other dignitaries also joined leaders of the Pueblos-- Ernest Mirabal, Governor of the Nambé Pueblo; George Rivera, Governor of the Pojoaque Pueblo; Perry Martinez, Governor of the San Ildefonso Pueblo; and Charlie Dorame, Former Governor, Tesuque Pueblo and Chairman, Northern Pueblos Tributary Water Rights Association. Santa Fe County Commission Chair Virginia Vigil and other local and state officials also participated.
The Aamodt water rights settlement was one of four water rights settlements included in legislation signed by President Obama in 2011 that will help deliver clean drinking water to tribes in New Mexico, Arizona and Montana.
“We are here today because President Obama promised to engage tribal nations in a meaningful government-to-government relationship that supports their needs,” the Secretary noted. “The location of this event is just one symbol of that commitment. Santa Fe Indian School's Pueblo Pavilion Wellness Center was completed with funds from the President's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
The Aamodt settlement provides some innovative mechanisms for managing water in the Pojoaque River basin to satisfy the Pueblos' current and future water needs while minimizing disruption to the non-Indian water users.
The Secretary noted that the settlement will bring jobs as well as water to the region, announcing that the Bureau of Reclamation will invest $56.4 million in base funding to plan, design, and construct the Pojoaque Regional Water System authorized by the Settlement Act.
The Department of the Interior has been working with the all of the parties to the Aamodt settlement for many years. In addition to the four pueblos, this process has included the State of New Mexico, Santa Fe County, the City of Santa Fe, and numerous local water users.