Councilor Fritz Hahn's recent My Turn listed his accomplishments in office. One item was the town's commitment "to participate with the Taos Valley Acequia Association…Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Taos County, and non-profit organizations in a group…to coordinate rehabilitation throughout the Rio Fernando watershed." But restoration efforts will be futile without addressing the causes, not just the symptoms.
Hahn is right that the future of acequias here depends on this river. However, no amount of work maintaining ditches in town will improve surface flows from upstream. Only better grazing practices on the headwaters can do that.
Hahn said "the upper aquifer will be recharged, tree canopy preserved..." He should explain his basis for that statement since federal managers have repeatedly referred to trees as "straws sucking up the water." How can Hahn assume these managers will protect trees along the river without a written commitment from the Forest Service to do that?
Hahn's good intentions and private meetings will not alter the entrenched resistance of federal bureaucrats. Forest Service managers have never admitted that federal grazing on these stream banks is linked to the impairment of the Rio Fernando.
Vegetative cover, aquifer capacity and surface flows have been dwindling for decades. But effective changes will take public participation and public pressure from elected officials and nonprofits. That hasn’t happened.
Four years ago, Hahn won his election by campaigning on the Rio Fernando issue. But now this river is in worse shape than ever. Time's up, Councilor.