Price's Dairy Becomes Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge
by: Mary Carlson - Albuquerque Area Office
New Mexico is now officially home to the first urban wildlife refuge in the southwest and Reclamation owns part of the senior water rights.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited the former Price’s Dairy or Valley Gold Farms site located just south of Albuquerque on September 27th to announce that the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bernalillo County, the Trust for Public Land and the Albuquerque Metropolitan Area Flood Control Authority had closed on the 390 acres of farm land and about 250 acre-feet of senior water rights.
“This is the first purchase of surface water rights Reclamation has made along the Rio Grande in New Mexico,” Albuquerque Area Manager Mike Hamman said of Reclamation’s purchase of 154 acre-feet of pre-1907 water rights. “We’re excited about this purchase and the potential to use these water rights to offset some of our activities for endangered species in the Middle Rio Grande.”
The 559th unit of the national wildlife system is within a 30-minute drive of half of New Mexico’s population because of its close proximity to Albuquerque.
“Bringing this land into public ownership will give residents and visitors alike access to a beautiful natural space right here in our state’s largest city,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.
“Too many kids get more television time than outdoor time, but this new wildlife refuge is our opportunity to change that,” said Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. “This wildlife refuge will help New Mexico kids discover the incredible natural heritage of our state, and it represents an important investment in their health and well-being.”
On September 21, 2012, Reclamation closed on the purchase of 154 acre-feet of senior water rights appurtenant to 73.3 acres of land for $2 million. The Fish and Wildlife Service closed on the purchase of 390 acres of land and about 98 acre-feet of water. In November 2011, the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer granted a license to confirm that the Price’s Dairy owned pre-1907 surface water appurtenant to 260 acres of land. Reclamation plans to use the water rights to help meet the needs of the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow.