Neighbors of New Mexico State Rep. Fred Luna have filed a civil lawsuit alleging he took control of a “community ditch” that delivers water to their property.
Frank and Christine Salcido, who live on Los Lentes Road in Los Lunas, filed the lawsuit without the assistance of an attorney in District Court last week. The couple claims when Luna surveyed his property on April 3, 2001, he included all of a community ditch as his.
Luna said Tuesday he didn’t know a lawsuit had been filed and that he hadn’t been served with any court papers.
“That ditch was on my property, it’s not a community ditch,” Luna said. “I had been told that, if no one was using it after five years, I could erase it. Years ago, I had let my neighbor, who’s now deceased, use it because he had a little garden.”
The Salcidos claim in the lawsuit that the ditch easement is documented in the county clerk’s office. They also claim the Village of Los Lunas had approved the inclusion of the community ditch as part of Luna’s new property boundaries.
“The village officials informed us that they approved the new plat because the County of Valencia requires them to do so,” the lawsuit said. “We then went to the Valencia County clerk’s office, which has informed us they do not have any written procedures and/or policy on how someone can erase a community ditch.”
The Salcidos, who couldn’t be reached for comment, claim in the lawsuit they have a copy of state statues that inform them of their rights to the community ditch.
“Without having any agreement from all affected property owners to agree through notarized signatures on any changes, divisions, or erasures of an existing community ditch, Mr. Luna, and no other adjoining property owners (were) … allowed to do as he pleased with our community ditch,” the lawsuit said.
Although Luna had not reviewed the lawsuit, he did say another neighbor told him he knew water rights were not attached to the land. Luna, who irrigates about 9.5 acres of land, said the Salcidos had never irrigated their land in the few years that they’ve been his neighbors.
According to the lawsuit, the previous owners of the Salcidos’ property went through a legal process of equally dividing a community ditch with the adjoining property owners.
“When this procedure was done, the Village of Los Lunas very clearly demanded notarized signatures from each adjoining property owner, adjoining to the split, as well as the Valencia County clerk’s office,” the lawsuit said. “However, in Mr. Luna’s case, none of this was required.”
The Salcidos asked that a judge order Luna to re-establish the “community” ditch as it was prior to the removal of all the dirt and that the all documents show the ditch as “community” owned.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.