Executive director empowered to approve short-term emergency allocations



FARMINGTON — Newly approved amendments to the water allocation policies of the San Juan Water Commission are designed to clarify who can approve emergency allocations of water.

The San Juan Water Commission approved the amendments during its Wednesday meeting in Farmington. Commissioner Jay Burnham, who represents Farmington, abstained from the vote because the city is still waiting for legal analysis on the changes.

Burnham favored tabling the amendments for a month, but the commission approved the amendments to enable a pending application for water rights to be reviewed and presented to the commission next month. 

One amendment will allow the executive director, Aaron Chavez, to approve short-term emergency allocations. The short term is defined as less than 90 days. The San Juan Water Commission can approve longer emergency allocations of up to a year. The commission consists of representatives from the county, cities and rural water associations.

Commissioners also discussed a template agreement for temporary water allocation of reserve water for member entities. The commission directed staff members to create options for temporary and permanent allocations because of concerns that an entity could be granted water for 10 years and have to fight to keep the allocation after that term expired.

"People that are drinking water very seldom give it up," Burnham said, echoing a  comment made earlier in the meeting by Commissioner Jim Dunlap, who represents rural water users.

The template would help the commission get permission from the Office of the State Engineer to create points of diversion to send water to various entities. If the commission does eventually adopt a template, it would serve as a guidance and not be set in stone for every allocation.

"Each instance is going to have its own issues and nuances," said Commission Chairman John Beckstead, who represents San Juan County.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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