Rural county, feds locked in water rights dispute

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WEED, N.M. (AP) — The latest dispute over federal control of land and water in the West has erupted along the banks of New Mexico's Agua Chiquita.

The federal government has installed metal fences and locked gates to keep cattle out.

The move has enraged rural Otero County, where the sheriff has been ordered by the county commission to cut the locks. The U.S. attorney for the district of New Mexico is hoping a meeting Friday will ease tensions enough to avoid an escalation like the armed standoff last month over grazing rights in Nevada.

The Forest Service says the enclosures are meant to protect what's left of the wetland habitat. Forest Supervisor Travis Moseley said the metal fences and gates simply replaced strands of barbed wire that had been wrecked by elk.