The U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Albuquerque Area Office, has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze the environmental impacts of constructing a proposed regional water system (RWS) and connected actions in the Pojoaque Basin in north-central New Mexico. The RWS would deliver potable water to Pueblo and County residents in the Pojoaque Basin by collecting and treating water from the Rio Grande. The water would then be transmitted, stored, and prepared for delivery to local residents, as authorized by the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act (Public Law 111-291, Title VI; 124 Stat. 3065) (Settlement Act), which was signed on December 8, 2010.
Upon completion of all conditions precedent to settlement enforcement, as detailed in the Settlement Act; publication of the required Statement of Findings; and issuance of a Record of Decision by the Secretary of the Interior; Reclamation would begin construction of the RWS. After construction is complete, titles to the infrastructure and facilities would be transferred to the Pueblos, Santa Fe County, and the Regional Water Authority. Upon title transfer, these entities would be responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the RWS.
Litigation concerning claims to the scarce water resources of the Pojoaque Basin began in 1966, in the case State of New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer v. Aamodt (No. 66cv6639 MV/LCS [District of New Mexico], Aamodt adjudication). The purpose of the litigation was to determine the nature and extent of the claims to water rights in the Pojoaque Basin. In August 2000, the federal court ordered confidential mediation over settlement of the Pueblo claims. In May 2006, the non-federal parties to the case signed the Settlement Agreement; these were the Pueblo de San Ildefonso, Pueblo of Nambé, Pueblo of Pojoaque, and Pueblo of Tesuque (Settlement Pueblos); the City of Santa Fe; Santa Fe County; the State of New Mexico; and other individual defendants. This Settlement Agreement allowed for up to 4,000 afy of water to be diverted from the Rio Grande, and it contemplated constructing the RWS; 2,500 afy of water would be allocated to the four Settlement Pueblos, and up to 1,500 afy would be allocated to Santa Fe County.
The technical details for the RWS described in the Settlement Agreement were set out in a 2008 engineering report prepared by Hurlbut, Kersich, and McCullough Engineering, Inc. (HKM 2008). The Settlement Act, signed in 2010, accomplished the following:
The conformed Settlement Agreement (dated April 2012), was signed by the Settlement Pueblos, Santa Fe County, the City of Santa Fe, the State of New Mexico, and the Secretary of the Interior on March 14, 2013. It includes revisions to conform to the Settlement Act. County residents of the Pojoaque Basin have the option of signing onto the Settlement Agreement under one of three options relating to their domestic well. Options include connecting to the RWS now, continuing use of their well at a reduced rate and connecting to the RWS upon transfer of their property, or not connecting to the RWS and reducing use of their well.
The Pojoaque Basin is defined in Section 602(13) of the Settlement Act and encompasses about 147,300 acres. The Settlement Act defines the basin as the geographic area limited by a surface water divide, within which rainfall and runoff flow into arroyos, drainages, and named tributaries; these eventually drain into either Rio Pojoaque, the two unnamed arroyos immediately south of Rio Pojoaque, or the two arroyos (including Arroyo Alamo) that are immediately north of the confluence of the Rio Pojoaque and the Rio Grande. The Pojoaque Basin includes the San Ildefonso Eastern Reservation, which is recognized by Section 8 of Public Law 87-231 (75 Stat. 505).
Section 611(a) of the Settlement Act authorizes Reclamation to plan, design, and construct a RWS, consisting of water-diversion facilities from the Rio Grande and water treatment on the Pueblo de San Ildefonso. Moreover, it authorizes any treatment, transmission, storage, and distribution facilities and wellfields for Santa Fe County’s distribution system and Pueblo water facilities that are necessary to distribute up to 4,000 afy of water annually to customers in the Pojoaque Basin (Settlement Act, Section 611[a][B]).
The project includes the following actions:
The EIS also analyzes alternatives for the proposed connected actions of the Rio Pojoaque irrigation improvement project on the Pueblo de San Ildefonso and the Rio Tesuque channel modification project on the Pueblo of Tesuque. The funding for these actions is authorized under Section 611(f)(1) and 617(a) of the Settlement Act. The Pueblo de San Ildefonso is also proposing to construct a wastewater system and future water-related infrastructure projects. Funding for these actions is made available under Section 617(c)(1)(A)(i) of the Settlement Act. While these actions are not directly part of the RWS, they are being analyzed in this EIS as connected actions authorized by Section 615(d)(7)(A)(ii) of the Settlement Act. This provision authorizes the expenditure of funds appropriated under Section 617(c)(1)(A)(i) of the Settlement Act prior to substantial completion of the RWS “for any activity that is more cost-effective when implemented in conjunction with the construction of the [RWS], as determined by the Secretary [of the Interior].”
Purpose and Need
The purpose of Reclamation’s action is to reliably provide a firm, safe supply of treated drinking water for distribution in the Pojoaque Basin, in compliance with the Settlement Act.
The need for Reclamation’s action is to reduce reliance on groundwater in the Pojoaque Basin and to allow the Settlement Pueblos to receive a portion of the water provided under the Settlement Act. Reclamation’s action would also enable the Settlement Pueblos to use funding made available in the Settlement Act for certain water-related infrastructure improvements, if requested. This funding can be requested prior to substantial completion of the RWS and used for water-related improvements that would be more cost-effective when implemented in conjunction with RWS construction, if approved by the Secretary of the Interior (Settlement Act section 615[d][A][ii]).
Other Objectives of the Project and Connected Actions
The Settlement Pueblos’ and Santa Fe County’s specific objectives of the project are as follows:
The Pueblo de San Ildefonso’s additional objectives of the connected actions are as follows:
The Pueblo of Tesuque’s additional objectives of the connected actions (all related to the Rio Tesuque channel modification project) are as follows:
Decisions to be Made
This EIS complies with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) by supporting federal decisions related to the RWS project. Both Reclamation and the US Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are making decisions based on the analyses in this EIS. Specifically, Reclamation will decide whether and how to construct and temporarily operate a water treatment and distribution system for the Pojoaque Basin, in accordance with the Settlement Agreement and the Settlement Act. Reclamation’s decision would determine the design alternative for the water system and whether to proceed with project construction and temporary operations, before transferring them to a newly created Regional Water Authority, Santa Fe County, and the Settlement Pueblos.
The BIA, in consultation with the Settlement Pueblos, will decide whether to issue right-of-way (ROW) easements and permits on tribal lands for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the RWS. According to the Settlement Act (Section 611[c]) and Cost Sharing and System Integration Agreement (Section 2.3), Pueblos will grant easements and ROWs as necessary for the construction of the RWS at no cost. If needed, this would include the Rio Pojoaque irrigation improvement project and the Rio Tesuque channel modification project.
Additional federal decisions would be made as part of permitting processes, including those under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and other applicable federal laws.
As part of cooperating agency coordination, Reclamation has coordinated with the following entities that accepted cooperating agency status throughout the preparation of the EIS:
The project includes activities in and on the Rio Grande, Rio Nambé, Rio Tesuque, and Rio Pojoaque.
* Preliminary project numbers subject to change as the project design is finalized
Components of the RWS
There are different ways these components can be implemented, which are called project elements. For example, surface water could be collected by a side channel diversion or sub-surface capture. Part of alternatives development is to identify the different elements available for each component.