Water Protections Approved

New Mexico – Environmentalists have been anxiously waiting for state regulators to make history by approving a sweeping measure for protecting the state's headwaters. That wait ended late Tuesday.

The state Water Quality Control Commission voted 7-3 to approve a proposal by the Richardson administration that would give special protection to hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, more than two dozen lakes and thousands of acres of wetlands in federal wilderness area across the state.

The administration has been pushing for the "outstanding national resource waters" designation since 2008.

State officials say the designation will protect headwater streams, lakes and wetlands by prohibiting any activities that would degrade water quality.

Ranchers and some water associations have criticized the proposal, saying that such a broad designation could harm rural New Mexico.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.