Consultations to be held between New Mexico and pueblos on Rio Grande governance

Danielle Prokop, a writer for Source New Mexico, wrote an article that explores the impacts of climate change on New Mexico.

During the Rio Grande Compact Commission meeting on Friday, a significant portion of the discussion was focused on upcoming meetings with the six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos. These meetings aim to gather the tribal perspective on the governance of the state’s largest river.

The annual meeting took place on Friday, where the three-member commission convened to discuss the proposal. During the meeting, legal advisors and New Mexico State Engineer Mike Hamman provided their insights. Comprised of appointees from Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico, along with a non-voting chair from the federal government, the commission deliberated on the matter.

For the past two years, a group of six pueblos consisting of Cochiti, Santo Domingo, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Sandia, and Isleta have been engaging with the commission. The coalition expressed their desire for a more inclusive approach, seeking a “seat at the table” to address the exclusion of tribal governments from the commission and to ensure better representation beyond the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which currently makes presentations at the meetings.

Legal and engineer advisors have engaged in numerous multi-hour discussions over the course of several months. However, they have yet to establish a protocol for pueblos to deliver a presentation to the commission.

During the commissioner comments, Hamman further elaborated on the report, explaining that competing priorities, including the ongoing lawsuit over Rio Grande water before the Supreme Court, have impacted other commission business.

“The Rio Grande Compact Commission has been working diligently on several crucial matters, such as the Texas v. New Mexico Original No. 141 case, along with other significant issues. Unfortunately, due to these pressing concerns, we have been unable to finalize any specific proposals in this regard.”

During his time in the Office of the State Engineer, Hamman held a meeting with coalition leaders on April 4. As part of his responsibilities, he successfully reached an agreement to engage in consultation with all tribal governments regarding the governance of the Rio Grande in May. This approach was inspired by previous efforts to involve tribes in decision-making processes related to the Colorado River.

The goal, as he mentioned, is to organize a half-day meeting aimed at creating a framework for the regular meetings between tribal governments and the Rio Grande Compact Commission.

Hamman stated that while they recognize the significant impact of the six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos on operational issues related to the Rio Grande compact, they also have a responsibility to consult with all tribes and the basin.

Sarah Delavan, an engineer at the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, generously gave up some of her presentation time to allow Glenn Tenorio, the former governor of Santa Ana Pueblo and vice chair of the coalition, to speak to the commission.

Tenorio acknowledged that there were other pueblo leaders present and he read from a statement that he had prepared.

According to him, the coalition is seeking to gain a deeper understanding of tribal consultation during the Colorado River negotiations and explore the feasibility of implementing a similar approach for the Rio Grande.

He expressed the coalition’s anticipation for collaborating with the Commission in the upcoming months to identify the most suitable methods for future engagement.

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