Settlement elusive in 38-year-old water rights case

The Santa Fe New Mexican takes a look at the Aamodt Indian water rights case that has gone on for 38 years without a settlement.

The suit was filed by the state in federal court in an attempt to quantify the rights of four Pueblo tribes and their non-Indian neighbors. At the time, state officials thought the case would move quickly and would serve as a model for other tribal cases.

But those expectations were dashed by the slow-moving federal system and other issues. Although water rights cases have been handled in federal courts for decades, the Pueblo situation is unique in that the tribes hold their land in fee. Earlier cases involved reservations that were set aside by treaty or statute so there were some legal questions that had to be resolved for the Pojoaque, Tesuque, Namb� and San Ildefonso Pueblos.

The case seemed to have a turning point with the announcement of a proposed settlement earlier this year. One Pueblo governor said the tribes appear to be in support of the deal, but non-Indians are objecting. They have formed a group to lobby against provisions that call for them to give up their wells and join a regional water system.

The suit is named after the first family listed as defendants in the case.

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