Last July a draft of the Special Master’s report was submitted to the United States Supreme Court, making recommendations in the lawsuit involving the Rio Grande Project. In the final report filed today the Special Master has not changed his draft rulings on the four motions. The case filed by Texas will move forward and the case filed by the United States may as well. The ruling confirms that New Mexico relinquishes control and dominion over the water it deposits in Elephant Butte Reservoir.
The Special Master has determined that NM may not divert or intercept water it is required to deliver under the compact after it is released from Elephant Butte Reservoir. That water is committed to the Rio Grande Project for delivery to Texas and EBID.
Most importantly, according to Water Law Specialist Attorney Steve Hernandez, the Special Master has ruled that water delivered by Elephant Butte Irrigation District takes priority over all other appropriations granted by NM. He said that both EBID and EP1 continue to be “welcome to participate as amici, giving the Special Master insight into the role of the districts in the various issues before the court.”
Gary Esslinger, EBID Manager and Treasurer, notes that the Special Master’s report continues to affirm the seniority and protection of the water resources managed and delivered by EBID under the 2008 Operating Agreement. Hernandez says, “EBID members have won a major victory today regarding surface water delivered by the district.”