By Andy Dennison
Thursday May 7, 2009 - The Taos News
New Mexico’s two U.S. senators have jointly proposed legislation that would settle Taos Pueblo water rights claims and pay for the settlement.
Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both longtime advocates of the settlement, introduced the Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement Agreement, and it has been sent to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for hearings, according to Bingaman’s office.
The legislation asks for $120 million, most of which would go into a new Taos Pueblo Water Development Fund that would pay for water rights acquisition, infrastructure project and restoration of Buffalo Pasture recharge. The state is expected to kick in another $15 million for the effort.
If approved in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the legislation would put an end to a 40-year lawsuit filed to protest the pueblo’s claims to waters in the R'o Pueblo de Taos. Settlement also may unlock potential water rights transfer in the Taos Valley that have been challenged by the pueblo since the 1969 filing.
Jude McCartin, spokesperson for Bingaman, said the bill will likely be packaged with other legislation before it hits the Senate floor.
A similar bill providing funds to settle the Aamodt lawsuit in the Pojoaque valley is due to be introduced in the coming weeks, McCartin said.