Today, Congressman Steve Pearce announced his introduction of H.R. 1377, a bill to allow the Mescalero Tribe of southern New Mexico to lease unused, excess water.
"I reintroduced this legislation that passed the House last Congress," said Pearce. "This bill gives the Mescalero Apache Tribe an opportunity for economic growth, and regional communities will be able to access desperately needed water."
Mescalero Apache President Frederick Chino Sr. thanked Rep. Pearce for his work. "We thank Rep. Pearce for his leadership in reintroducing this bill and for his friendship and commitment to the Mescalero people," said Chino. "The Mescalero Apache Tribe is working hard to ensure that the needs of the Mescalero people and surrounding communities are met, and that the region continues to grow and prosper. Water is one of our most important resources, and the Mescalero Apache Tribe Leasing Authorization Act will allow our Tribe to better manage our water, and allow us to work with our neighboring communities on water usage The Mescalero Tribe also appreciates and acknowledges the City of Ruidoso, our neighbor and partner on this legislation."
Ruidoso Mayor Ray Alborn emphasized the importance of the bill for the local community. "I appreciate the persistence of Congressman Pearce and the cooperation of the Mescalero Apache Tribe in working on this bill. Water is critical for all of us, and this bill is a huge step forward for the community. I am thankful for the hard work of Rep. Pearce, his staff, President Chino, and the Mescalero Tribe. The cooperation among all those involved has been excellent, and will benefit Ruidoso, the Mescalero Tribe, and the surrounding area."
The legislation would permit the lease or transfer of water rights for a term of up to 99 years provided the lease or transfer complies with the laws of New Mexico. The bill both promotes economic growth and emphasizes self-determination rights for Native American communities. Revenue gained from leasing this water would enable the Tribe to invest in vital services for their reservation, such as infrastructure improvements, elder care, and scholarship programs.
Rep. Pearce introduced the bill in the 112th Congress, where it saw strong bipartisan support, successfully passing the House of Representatives.