After years of wrangling and eventually reaching an historic settlement over the use of water from the Rio Grande, the states of Texas, New Mexico and Colorado are seeking a special master and ultimately the US Supreme Court to approve their settlement terms in light of a recent Biden Government raised objection.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he will fight on her behalf after states finally settled a dispute over an 84-year compact over which Texas sued in 2013.
The Rio Grande Compact, signed by Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado in 1938 and approved by Congress, was designed to equitably divide the waters of the Rio Grande River among the three states through which it flows. The Texas legislature also ratified the agreement, which became part of the Texas Water Code.
A vital source of water for the three US states and four Mexican states, the river flows through arid, semi-arid, and desert-like terrain. Due to the massive agricultural dependence on water from the river, it is estimated that only 20 percent of the river’s water reaches the Gulf of Mexico.
The Rio Grande River flows along the southern borders of 13 Texas border counties. At the heart of the dispute is the region between Elephant Butte Dam in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and Hudspeth County, Texas. The dam limits the Elephant Butte Reservoir, which the New Mexicans use primarily for agriculture, as well as recreation and hydroelectric power. Hudspeth County is the second westernmost county in Texas, just east of El Paso County, which borders New Mexico.
In 2013, Texas sued the Texas Compact against New Mexico and Colorado. Texas claimed that New Mexico improperly siphoned water from the river before it reached Texas. New Mexico disagreed, claiming that Texas had violated the pact.
After years of wrangling, the Rio Grande Compact Commission, a panel of commissioners from each state, reached an agreement at a special session on Nov. 10 and found it “consistent with the Compact and fair to all compacting states.”
The Consent Decree, they said, “provides for the collection, correlation and presentation of facts necessary for the administration of the water sharing of the New Mexico-Texas Covenant below the Elephant Butte Reservoir.”
The commission also recommended that the Attorneys General of Texas, New Mexico and Colorado “approve the Consent Decree for Administration of the Compact as a resolution of the current dispute between states over the division of water beneath Elephant Butte Reservoir.”
However, the Biden administration recently announced that it objects to the terms of the agreement. As a result, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado asked the Special Master, and eventually the Supreme Court, to approve their government objection agreement.
Of the development, Paxton said, “I have continued to fight to ensure that our state has the legal access we deserve to the Rio Grande and that we can use the river’s resources responsibly to limit the damage caused by drought and help Texas farmers.” “
He added that the agreement “helps protect the resources of all participating states” and encouraged the federal government to “reconsider its objection”.
The nearly 1,900-mile-long Rio Grande River originates in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains at 12,000 feet above sea level. It flows south through New Mexico to El Paso, Texas, where it becomes the international border between Texas and Mexico. After the signing of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, the river became the international border that is now “Ground Zero” for Texas border security efforts. Paxton has also filed numerous lawsuits against the Biden administration for failing to secure the border as millions of people from over 150 countries crossed the river to enter Texas illegally.
In Texas, the river stretches from extreme west in El Paso to the southeast along the 1,254-mile-long Texas-Mexico border, ending in the Gulf of Mexico.
By Bethany Blankley