Ceremony planned for activist’s descent from Taos water drilling rig Sunday

Water activists sing prayers Friday (March 15) during a four-day protest outside a water well drilling rig along U.S. 64. Morgan Timms / The Taos News

The water activist who on Thursday (March 14) climbed a water well drilling rig, plans to come down Sunday morning.

“Buck [Johnston] plans to descend the tower by 10 a.m. on Sunday (March 17). We have asked for Buck to be allowed to take part in a cleansing ceremony before being taken into custody,” read a Saturday (March 16) press release from the Guardians of Taos Water, the coalition of locals raising awareness of the implementation of the Abeyta water rights settlement.

Johnston is one of the water protectors who began a nonviolent prayer action at the site of the Midway well, located along U.S. 64 east of the Río Grande Gorge and near the Taos Regional Airport.

The Midway well is a project of the El Prado Water and Sanitation District, one of the five parties to the Abeyta Settlement. Under the terms of that water-sharing agreement, El Prado must relocate some of its water pumping away from a religiously important pasture at Taos Pueblo.

The Abeyta Settlement took decades to hammer out, with Congress allocating millions of dollars for its implementation and former President Barack Obama signing it into law.

“[Guardians of Taos] Water undertook this peaceful action to call attention to the need for public involvement and further evaluation of the safety and long-term effects of this deep-water extraction,” read a statement. “We believe there are sustainable solutions to conserve and share available surface and shallow aquifer water.”

The well at the center of Johnston’s action is 913 feet deep, according to the El Prado water district. The well was being drilled by a Colorado contractor.

The group is calling for “concerned citizens to join in our prayerful action” at the camp along the highway before Johnston descends from the water well drilling rig Sunday.

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