Water officials resolve Ute concerns

TV Hagenah

SAN JON — A U.S. senator’s aid had a handful of concerns about the Ute Lake Pipeline Project proposed legislation, but after hearing of them, the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority on Wednesday smoothed out those concerns.
And because of that, ENMRWA officials hope the plan to pipe Ute Lake water to locations such as Clovis and Portales will eventually pass through congress.
Mike Connor of U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s office in a letter to ENMRWA project manager Scott Verhines expressed concern about eight portions of the ENMRWA’s plan. Those concerns include the “scope and development” of the project, the prohibition on “commercial irrigation,” costs of “operation, maintenance and replacement” regarding the project and the autonomy and interrelation between the Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation.
Project Manager Verhines also said Conner expressed concerns regarding the ability of the Authority “to adjust allocation and payments as the project progresses,” and that current estimates regarding groundwater sustainability in eastern New Mexico be made to read 12-25 years rather than the 25-40 years, which was in ENMRWA’s original draft.
But when all the concerns were heard by the board, that group made corrections to the proposed legislation that they felt would satisfy any of the worries of legislators and specifically Bingaman’s aide.
“I think we made major progress here today,” said ENMRWA Chairman David Lansford “We took some very big steps.”
Lansford pointed specifically to the progress made on the Federal Authorization Legislation, but added that progress was also made on the Dornbusch Water Rate/Cost Allocation study, the legislative appropriation and finally the necessity of financial planning by the different counties and communities involved in the water authority.
The Authority voted to make five specific modifications to the project plan:
1. Include as appropriate inclusion in the overall project of the Tucumcari Waste Water Project, the Logan Sewer System Project and the Energy Recovery Project.
2. Modify the reference to the project as the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System.
3. Revise terminology from “commercial irrigation” to “irrigated agricultural use,” or similar language.
4. Change the groundwater sustainability estimates from 25-40 years to 12-25 years.
5. Change the language in the document so that the Authority can retain the ability to negotiate a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation “regarding the availability of obtaining technical assistance.