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New Mexico governor appoints water, infrastructure advisers

November 17, 2021 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor named three new advisers Wednesday who will help guide policy on water, broadband and other infrastructure projects.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the announcements a “celebration” of the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden on Monday.

“New Mexico has one of the worst reviews in terms of the potential for failing dams in the country,” Lujan Grisham said. “The money coming from the federal government that’s been made available in a number of ways means that we can fix all of those dams, 200 of them.”

Former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez will serve as the state’s new infrastructure adviser to prioritize an estimated $3.7 billion in federal funding for roads, bridges and other projects in New Mexico.

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The governor also acknowledged a New Mexico Supreme Court ruling issued Wednesday that will require her to work more closely with the Legislature to allocate federal pandemic relief. The decision could have implications for federal infrastructure spending.

Lujan Grisham also named a new top water official to replace State Engineer John D’Antonio, who will be stepping down next month. In submitting his resignation, D’Antonio cited a persistent lack of funding for his agency and unfunded mandates.

Mike Hamman, who is currently the chief engineer and CEO of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, will take over the state role beginning in January. Hamman also has served as an area manager for the U.S Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water projects across the West.

“I’m up for the task the governor has laid at my feet,” said Hamman, who will spearhead the state’s response to deepening drought and an ongoing legal battle with Texas over management of the Rio Grande.

The governor also named former Illinois Office of Broadband Director Matt Schmit as an adviser to the newly created state broadband office.

Lujan Grisham said he will move to the state soon to advise the office, which has been charged with centralizing New Mexico’s sprawling efforts to increase high-speed internet coverage.

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Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.