Another scuffle erupts in Texas v. New Mexico

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King objected to the United States’ complaint in Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado, calling it a “water grab.”

“The United States’ recent filing is an attempt to grab our groundwater,” said Attorney General King.  “Last year a New Mexico court ruled against the federal government and determined that New Mexico groundwater belongs to New Mexico.  Now the federal government is hoping to maneuver around that New Mexico ruling by taking Texas’ side at the high court but I will do everything within my power to protect ground and surface water for New Mexicans.”

On February 27, the United States filed a motion to intervene as a plaintiff in the case, a complaint in intervention and memorandum in support of the motion to intervene.  The U.S. is claiming that excess pumping in New Mexico is intercepting water that would drain back to the Rio Grande.

New Mexico’s five-page response filed with the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly states that they do not object to the U.S. intervening as a plaintiff, but New Mexico does have three objections to the U.S. complaint:

  1. New Mexico argues that the U.S. is seeking to inject a new issue of whether it water right for the Rio Grande Project includes groundwater.  New Mexico maintains that this was already resolved by the adjudication court—and that both federal law and prior court decisions affirm that the U.S. must abide by the state adjudication court decision.
  2. New Mexico argues that if its motion to dismiss Texas’ claim is granted, the U.S. claim should also be dismissed and any Rio Grande Project claims that the U.S. wants to pursue can be handled in the U.S. Federal District Court.
  3. New Mexico argues that the U.S. has misconstrued the Bureau of Reclamation’s rights and obligations and, therefore, has failed to state a claim.

The parties currently have a conference scheduled for March 28.

Written by Marta Weismann