Another legislative session, another unnecessary bill that keeps New Mexico 50th on the good lists. No exception this year, as House Bill 121 and an eleventh-hour attorney general’s opinion attempt to make the argument that preliminary approvals of temporary water right transfers violate the due process rights of other water right owners and, according to the AG opinion, “fails to offer the basic fundamental requirements of due process.”

Whose due process rights are being violated? Arguably, applicants from industrial, agricultural, environmental and governmental sectors are having their due process rights violated as HB 121 guts a nearly 20-year practice of allowing preliminary approvals for the temporary transfer of water rights as a necessary tool. Its sponsors are Reps. Christine Chandler and Susan Herrera and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth.

This tool allows for water to be used for critical renewable energy and highway construction projects, agricultural water administration, endangered species purposes and other critical uses that otherwise could not wait for the minimum two-year process for a typical water rights transfer to run its course through the normal state engineer application, notice and protest gauntlet.

John D’Antonio Jr. is a native New Mexican and has served the last four governors in the roles of New Mexico state engineer, secretary of the Interstate Stream Commission, secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department and New Mexico commissioner on the Rio Grande and Upper Colorado River Compacts.