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This story is a staff report from The Paper.

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Voters along the Rio Grande overwhelmingly re-elected two progressive conservation champions to the board responsible for allocating water through a network of agricultural ditches and preserving the bosque through the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

Mid-Rio Grande Conservancy District Chair Karen Dunning and Vice-Chair Joaquin Baca had served on the board during some of the hardest years of drought. Under Dunning and Baca, the board, which collects taxes from property owners in the historically agricultural areas along the river from Sandoval to Socorro Counties, including more urban areas in the North and South Valley in Bernalillo County, had advanced policies to balance spending by the district which conservation critics argued had prioritized spending for large irrigators in Socorro and Valencia County. In recent years, MRGCD had tried to strike a balance between commercial agriculture and bosque protection, recreation and policies to make the bosque more resilient to the effects of climate change.

In response, conservative candidates Julia Maccini and Simon “Scooter” Haynes, commercial real estate developers, challenged both in the recent MRGCD elections by advancing an agenda to increase irrigation draws from large farms. Climate and conservation advocates warned that this would come at the expense of other MRGCD priorities, including a responsibility to protect wildlife and preserve the bosque. Conservation groups including the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club became involved in the rarely noticed elections.

READ MORE: Water Board Elections Are More Important Than You Think

After polls closed on Tuesday, both Dunning and Baca had easily beaten back the more conservative challengers.

In Socorro County, chile farmer Glen Duggins won reelection and Sandoval County’s Michael Sandoval ran unopposed.

Bernalillo County Results                   

Position No. 3

  • Karen Dunning              1,558
  • Julia L. Maccini                598

Position No. 4

  • Simon (Scooter) Haynes             571
  • Joaquin Baca    1,583

Socorro County Results                     

Position No. 6

  • Steven Sichler      208
  • Glen Duggins       238

Sandoval County Results                   

 Position No. 7

  • Michael T. Sandoval        181                       

Total Votes       4,937

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