Berrendo requests hearing delay

October 7, 2010 • Local News

Applicants for a proposed water pipeline between Fort Sumner and Santa Fe are asking officials to approve a request for a six-month delay on the hearing process. The motion was filed Tuesday with the Office of the State Engineer by attorneys for Berrendo LLC, the Roswell-based company proposing the transfer of 6,600 acre-feet annually in water rights to Santa Fe.

It was filed alongside Berrendo LLC’s response to a local water management group’s request made in September [auth] that the petitions for the project be dismissed altogether.

“We want to push this along, but we want to push it on the schedule that we laid out there,” said John Draper, an attorney representing Berrendo LLC. “We think it’s very well justified.”

The motion requests the delay saying additional time is needed to make the hydrologic studies and construct exhibits for the hearing. Currently, the hearing is scheduled for November 2011, in addition to about a half-dozen deadlines for submitting evidence beginning November 2010. Draper says three parties involved in the project don’t oppose the motion.

However, three others — including the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District — oppose it. “Extending that much time is just a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said Bill Netherlin, chairman of the PVACD. “There’s no reason for it.” Any delay would mean local residents, who fund the PVACD through taxes, would be paying an additional six months of legal fees, said Netherlin, who added that the motion could possibly be a “stall tactic.”

He didn’t immediately know how much the PVACD has paid in attorney fees to date. The PVACD recently filed a motion asking that the petitions for the pipeline be dismissed. They claim the applications fail to comply with the rules of the process, by not clearly identifying the legal subdivision, or the specific location for the pipeline and exactly where the water is going to end up.

Berrendo LLC responded by saying the recent arguments are “unpersuasive” and seek to have the motion denied, according to the documents. They argue PVACD “cites to no authority, statutory or otherwise, for the proposition that an application is defective and should be dismissed unless evidence of a contactual commitment is attached.” If the applicants’ request for the delay isn’t approved, the next benchmark in the hearing process will be on Nov. 15, 2010, when Berrendo LLC is slated to disclose its witnesses and exhibits.

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