One arrested during second day of water well protest  near Taos

Prayer camp outside drilling site grows

By Cody Hooks
chooks@taosnews.com
Posted 3/15/19

The protest at the site of a well drilling rig is in its second day Friday (March 15), which started around dawn with the arrest of one person.

Zachary Trujillo was arrested by New Mexico State …

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One arrested during second day of water well protest  near Taos

Prayer camp outside drilling site grows

Posted

The protest at the site of a well drilling rig is in its second day Friday (March 15), which started around dawn with the arrest of one person.

Zachary Trujillo was arrested by New Mexico State Police for criminal trespassing shortly after dawn, according to the law enforcement agency. Trujillo had climbed the well rig to take a phone charger to Buck Johnston, the man who Thursday (March 14) morning began a 4-day protest on top of the rig.


Johnston is one of the  water protectors who began a nonviolent prayer action at a water well site, located along U.S. 64 east of the Río Grande Gorge and near the Taos Regional Airport. He climbed the drilling rig, while supporters and other members of Guardians of Taos Water began assembling a make-shift camp along the highway.

They began erecting a ceremonial teepee Friday morning.

The nonviolent action is meant to draw attention to the implementation of the Abeyta Settlement, a decade-old water agreement that impacts the entire Taos Valley.

"[Guardians of Taos Water] wishes to bring this issue front and center to the community, and we are calling for a halt to all drilling until the community has been properly informed and a comprehensive and cumulative Environmental Impact Study has been conducted examining the cultural and environmental impacts of all 16-plus deep aquifer wells," read a  Thursday statement from the group.

Under the terms of the Abeyta Settlement, the El Prado Water and Sanitation District, a utility that serves the community north of the town of Taos, is supposed to cap the amount of water it pulls from wells located near Taos Pueblo, especially the religiously significant “Buffalo Pasture.” To make up that difference in water production for El Prado households and businsses, the district will drill two wells along U.S. 64, located much further from the tribe’s pasture.

One of those two wells, the Midway well, became the site of the water protectors’ action this week.

John Painter, board member of the El Prado district, said the protest came at an especially critical moment in the drilling process. The main trunk had already been drilled and certain infrastructure such as piping and screening installed in the 913-foot well as of Wednesday, but the next immediate step was halted once Johnston climbed the rig.

It’s possible the interior of the well could collapse, and the district will have to essentially start from scratch, Painter explained.

State police crisis negotiators have been at the well site since Thursday, attempting to convince Johnston to come down before the planned end of his protest.

Supporters at the camp said law enforcement managed to take Johnston’s hammock and some of his other supplies, though state police did not confirm that.

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