Water Protection Hearings

New Mexico – A four-day hearing on a proposal that would give special protection to miles of rivers and streams, more than two dozen lakes and acres of wetlands begins Tuesday in Santa Fe.

The New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission is considering a petition filed by the state Environment Department that aims to designate bodies of water in federal wilderness areas across the state as so-called "outstanding national resource waters."

The hearing was nearly derailed by critics, including the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.

The state Supreme Court quashed a temporary restraining order that had been granted to the group late last week, clearing the way for the hearing.

The ranchers are concerned the petition is incomplete and that the economic impacts of a sweeping designation haven't been addressed.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.