ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — Española, New Mexico’s sewer lines have been trespassing on Pueblo Indians’ land for 20 years and the city must pay the tribe or pull the lines out, the United States says in a federal complaint.
Española, pop. 11,000, north of Santa Fe, is directly north of the Santa Clara Pueblo.
The city negotiated two right-of-way easements for sewer and water lines with the Pueblo in 1984. One expired in 1994 and the other in 2002, but the city never renewed the agreements. The city is still using the lines, and has “engaged in discussions” with the pueblo, but they never reached an agreement.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs in November 2013 served the city with a Notice to Show Cause why it should not be assessed damages for trespass, and “incorporated by reference certain exhibits that explicitly acknowledged the ongoing trespass,” according to the May 6 complaint.
The United States prefers a negotiated resolution, but unless Española pays the pueblo for using its land, it’ll have to rip out the lines, the United States.
Neither the city nor the Department of Justice immediately responded to requests for comment Friday and over the weekend.
The Pueblo tribes are so called because of their traditional adobe houses and housing complexes, or pueblos, some of which are the oldest continuously inhabited structures in the nation.
Roughly 1,000 people live at Santa Clara Pueblo, which was established in about 1550.
The Santa Clara Pueblo was “granted” its land by the King of Spain in 1689. The U.S. Congress confirmed the grant in 1858, and President Lincoln signed the patent for the land in 1864. A second Spanish land grant, of additional territory, was issued in 1763, confirmed by the Court of Private Land Claims in 1894, and the patent was signed by President Taft in 1909.
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