Property owners in several New Mexico counties will head to the polls this Tuesday to elect board members for the agency that regulates the usage of the water trickling down the Rio Grande from Sandoval to Socorro counties.
The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) is holding the election so that verified property owners can select board members for positions three and four in Bernalillo County and positions six and seven in Socorro and Sandoval counties, respectively.
Nearly all the candidates agree that the most troubling issues facing the MRGCD is the area’s lack of water.
Incumbent Adrian Oglesby said persistent drought conditions over the past three years makes this one of the most important elections since the district was formed nearly 100 years ago.
“The next four years will be critical, we are in the worst drought we ever seen, our reservoirs are functionally empty and we have huge infrastructure issues,” Oglesby said. “So the next four years we need really intelligent leadership to make sure the district survives.”
The MRGCD with its 200 employees and $20 million budget is responsible for upkeep of drainage ditches, levees and canals along the Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam to Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Refuge. The district is also responsible for delivering water to nearly 60,000 acres of farmland for farms of all sizes, ranging from one-acre family plots to 900-acre commercial farming operations.
Oglesby said that in the past the MRGCD has relied on stored water to irrigate those farmlands, but aggressive drought conditions has him projecting that the stored water will run dry in early July. He added that water reserve depletion would amount to some pretty substantial losses and a big hit to the middle valley economy.
“If that happens we are obligated to shut off water to everyone but the pueblos that have very senior water rights. They have a small portion of water being held for that, and once that water runs out, then farming stops until it start raining again,” Oglesby said.
Jim Roberts is facing incumbent Karen Dunning for Position No. 3 in Bernalillo County. Adrian Oglesby will face challenger Louis Trujillo for Position No. 4 in Bernalillo County. A third candidate, Andrew Leo Lopez died May 28. Lopez will remain on the ballot, and if he wins board members will appoint someone to take his seat.
David Lorenzo C’ de Baca is challenging incumbent Derrick Lente for Sandoval County Position No. 7 and Chris Sichler faces challenger Jericho Sanchez for Socorro County’s Position No. 6.
The nearly 80,000 eligible voters can cast their ballots at any one of 26 polling locations throughout Bernalillo, Sandoval, and Socorro counties. Unlike most elections, voters must show a driver’s license or state ID to cast their ballots because of a property rights requirement for voting. Those who can’t supply ID or prove property ownership at the polls will be issued a provisional ballot.
The MRGCD was formed in the mid-1920s primarily to drain ground water from farmlands in the Atrisco and Old Town areas of the city. However, a couple of years later, the District added irrigation to its list of responsibilities.