Campbell water case delayed—again

Opponents of a long-delayed master plan development had hoped a June 13 hearing would end years of legal wrangling—but instead the case has been kicked down the road, again.

Campbell Ranch is a development that has been delayed nearly 20 years as questions about where water would come from have remained largely unanswered in the courts. In the latest round, the amount of water sought has been reduced, and a trial set for early August has been vacated. A new trial date has been set in March, 2018.

History

Campbell Corp. owned a swath of about 30,000 acres of ranch land along North 14 and in the San Pedro Mountains. Edgewood annexed 13,358 acres and a “shoestring” along Frost Road in 2001; Campbell is close to 20 miles from the rest of Edgewood.

Pieces of the original Campbell Ranch were developed by Campbell as San Pedro Creek Estates and the Overlook at San Pedro Creek, and 4,200 acres were sold to Roger Cox for the Paa-ko development.

The remaining 24,000 acres or so are in Sandoval, Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties and are used only for grazing.

Campbell put together a proposed master plan to develop 8,046 acres of the ranch with 4,023 homes in four relatively dense villages, a 750-room hotel, two 18-hole golf courses and commercial areas.

It submitted this massive plan—which could result in creating a new city the size of Socorro if built—to Bernalillo County, where initial development would be concentrated.

After extensive and acrimonious debate, Robert Gately, CEO of Campbell Corp., withdrew his application from Bernalillo County and began negotiations with the just-incorporated town of Edgewood, whose political leaders were hoping for rapid and massive growth.

While Edgewood was receptive to the annexation, availability of water has remained a persistent problem.

In the intervening years, the Campbell Ranch development stalled as legal battles have been waged.

Aquifer Science

In 2009, a company called Aquifer Science was formed, a partnership between Campbell Corp. and Vidler Water, a water rights development company from Nevada.

According to court documents, 95 percent of the ownership is Vidler’s, with 5 percent owned by Campbell.

Vidler Water NM applied to the state engineer for a permit to draw 1,500 acre-feet a year of water for the Campbell Ranch development under the name of Aquifer Science. It amended that application in 2011 and again in 2013.

The Master Plan for the development estimates a need of 1,500 acre-feet a year, which was the original amount sought for the project.

The latest move by Aquifer Science would reduce the amount to 350 acre-feet a year to come from the Sandia Basin, with the remaining 717 acre-feet to come from the Estancia Basin, through Entranosa Water.

New Developments

Deep Well Protest is a group that has long been in opposition to the Campbell Ranch project, hiring the Environmental Law Center. Bernalillo County is also party to the lawsuit, in opposition to the project.

Both argued for summary judgment in the June hearing, but were disappointed.

Meanwhile, Aquifer Science’s motion reduced the amount of water it says it needs for the project again.

Both Bernalillo County and the Environmental Law Center argued that protestants were given little time to analyze what both argue amounts to a new application and changes to the Aquifer Science model of potential impact on nearby wells.

They also argued that the Estancia Basin is considered a “critical [water] management area” by the State Engineer, and that the amendment should be viewed as a new application to the State Engineer’s office.