Opinion: Acequia revitalization demands continued political service

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I am announcing my candidacy for a second term as your town council representative, and I humbly ask for your vote.

When I originally ran for Council my commitment was to engage in four years of steadfast community service focused on restoring infrastructure (roads, water, sewage – an investment of $6 million during the last four years); returning to fiscal responsibility (turning our inherited $800,000 deficit into the current balanced budget with $2.7 million in reserve); refocusing on collaboration with our county, such as with emergency services and the youth and family center, and revitalizing our acequias.

This commitment to rehabilitating our ancient acequia network remains a core issue and one that I pursue daily. Many parciantes, mayordomos and commissioners have asked that I continue this work. It is with humility, respect for our acequia traditions and the promise of long-term water sustainability that I commit to continue this essential acequia revitalization effort.

The town of Taos is a parciante on the Acequia Madre and the Vigil y Romo acequias. Collaborating with Mayor Dan Barrone and Town Manager Rick Bellis, many initiatives have been launched:

• 2015: Collaborating with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, the town was able to repair and bring water into the Kit Carson Park lateral.

• 2016: The town participated in a youth conservation corps acequia-mapping project conducted by the Taos Soil &Water Conservation District.

• 2017: The town adopted a strengthened acequia protection ordinance with the accompanying resolution. Additionally, the mayor and town manager obtained unanimous approval for the recently adopted environmental resolution.

• 2017: A fledgling volunteer group, including the mayor and manager, cleaned ditches and brought water to parts of town that haven’t seen their ditches flow in some time.

• 2017: Historical precedence occurred when the town approved acequia revitalization expenditures into its current fiscal year budget, its ICIP and long-term strategic plan.

• 2017: Under the guidance of the Acequia Madre’s commissioners and the TS&WCD, the engineering staff has begun to design repairs to the La Loma lateral.

• 2017: The town committed to participate with the Taos Valley Acequia Association, acequia commissioners, U.S. Forest Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management, Taos County and nonprofit organizations, forming the Rio Fernando de Taos corridor group, designed to coordinate watershed revitalization and rehabilitation throughout the Rio Fernando watershed.

• 2018: The town will rehabilitate the Children’s lateral at Kit Carson Park.

• 2018: The town will engineer and possibly repair the Dragoon Lane lateral to the Couse pasture.

• 2018: The town has committed to participate in the reconstruction of the Vigil y Romo acequia.

• 2019: As the state Department of Transportation is scheduled to repair Paseo del Pueblo Norte, the town is exploring the possibility of rehabilitating the Paseo lateral of the Acequia Madre and has advocated for three new acequia culverts and green infrastructure (road pollutant filtration) in conjunction with these road repairs.

The real issue our community has been facing is demographics. Our community has been losing its children to greener pastures for some time. If we utilize our strengths (land, water, culture), we can begin to address this problem and possibly afford them greater opportunity.

For example, if our urban acequia system is revitalized, kitchen gardens will spring up and our surface water delivery system will be refurbished; urban waters will drain to the parched lands to the west. The upper aquifer will be recharged, our tree canopy preserved, agricultural land and its tax status will be protected. Revitalizing our acequias will lay the groundwork to establish meaningful cash crops, affording young families additional opportunities and the possibility that the demographics could begin to stabilize and long-term water sustainability enhanced.

One can’t overlook the $24 million invested in the airport. The mayor is working to enable the airport to spin off small businesses. The mayor and I are combining our traditions (acequias) and technology (airport) to guide Taos to economic and demographic stability.

Finally, one can’t disregard the state’s heavy investment in tourism, the State’s number-one economic driver and 40 percent of the Taos economy. The challenge is to maintain our authenticity, reflected in our acequia work, while at the same time utilizing the state’s investment to attract folks to visit. Tourism is not an end; it is a stepping stone to help us get from “here to there”—that is, a more diversified economy with a strong agricultural base.

Continuity, consistency, commitment and collaboration are the hallmarks of progressive community service.

Choose the candidate who knows city government and knows how to get things done.

I respectfully ask for your vote.

George ‘Fritz’ Hahn is a Taos Town Councilor.

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