What is in this article?:
- Texas fed lawsuit can go before high court
- Precedent established
Attorneys for the federal government submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court last week and argued in favor of the high court agreeing to hear the merits of a complaint filed last year by the State of Texas against New Mexico over shared water rights on the Rio Grande.
Nonetheless, King argues that legal precedent has already been established by the state court's multiple hearings and pending water cases. He insists the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in the case and says he is prepared to fight a long and lengthy battle if necessary on behalf of farmers’ rights in New Mexico.
Not all New Mexico water stakeholders affected by the issue agree. Critics, even among southern New Mexico irrigation districts, fear that rehashing the issue in the courts could end with New Mexico losing some of its share of the water from the reservoir as a result of the litigation.
Federal court officials have countered King's position by saying the issue involves the U.S Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Elephant Butte and is charged with distributing water not only to Texas by the Compact but also to Mexico according to terms of an international water treaty. That treaty established a bi-nation agency made up by water officials of both Mexico and the United States. The group, known as the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), is charged with overseeing the management of all rivers and their tributaries that border or feed into rivers that border Mexico.
Officials say the court would need to be careful not to make any ruling that conflicts with the terms of that international water treaty. Some, however, have suggested it may be time for the U.S. to consider renegotiating the treaty over allegations Mexico has failed to satisfy their responsibilities to release water from the tributaries that feed the lower Rio Grande at Lake Amistad.
Some Texas officials, including local officials in the Lower Rio Grande in South Texas, complain Mexico is playing games with water stored in Mexican reservoirs and has traditionally been late or short of water deliveries that would benefit farmers in the lower Texas Valley. There has been sword rattling along the South Texas border over the plight of the South Texas agriculture economy.
Once a vibrant agricultural region where vegetable, commodity crop and citrus farms stretched from county to county, the Valley in recent years has declined in agricultural production and become more a hub for the entry and cold storage and shipping of Mexican food imports, including fresh fruits and vegetables. A growing portion of all of Mexico's food imports are being shifted to South Texas.
Regardless what action the Supreme Court may or may not make in the weeks, months or years ahead, the larger issue of water shortages and how state and international neighbors will resolve issues over water sharing will dominate the news unless an unexpected change in the weather brings an extended period of abundant rain. Until then, the forecast calls for uncertainty.