Mayors testify regarding Ute Water Project

By Tony Parra

Mayor David Lansford of Clovis and Mayor Orlando Ortega of Portales wanted to send a clear message to Congress that federal funding is vital and necessary now for the Ute Water Project.
“There is no viable alternative to this project,” Lansford said. “We will not have the adequate water to sustain the community. Estimates show that the aquifer will only last for 12 to 25 years based on the demand.”
They made the trip in the middle of last week and Lansford spoke to congress on Wednesday and gave testimony. The Ute Water Project is projected to cost more than $307 million for the 12 entities of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority and Lansford said will take eight to 10 years to construct.
It will cost $307 million for the entities if the federal and state governments put in their part of the funding. The set-up requires 80 percent funding from the federal government, 10 percent funding from the state government and 10 percent funding from the ENMRWA entities.
Lansford said he answered questions from Congress members and said one of the questions was, “What will be the result to the communities if the project is not developed?”
“My answer was, it will devastate Roosevelt and Curry counties,” Lansford said. “There has been an economic growth in Roosevelt and Curry counties like we haven’t seen in the last 10 to 20 years. Much of that is fueled by the optimism of a good place to live in and the development of the project.”
Scott Verhines, program manager of the ENMRWA, has said that Ortega and city manager Debi Lee have been supportive of the project and are interested in pursuing it.
“The mayor and city manager have been moving along and we’ve been trying to catch up to them,” Verhines said in a meeting last month. “And rightfully so. They’ve been a dynamic crew. Gary Watkins (Portales city councilor) has been one of the best attendees of the (ENMRWA) meetings.”
Lansford gave a testimony in the summer to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources’ subcommittee on water and power. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said in a press release he would not support it because of concerns of funding from the federal government.
This time, Lansford and Ortega went before the House of Representatives’ subcommittee of water and power.
“We got positive response from both (Senate and House of Representatives),” Lansford said. “I didn’t receive anything negative from either legislative body.”
Lansford and Ortega said there will continue to be meetings to determine which entities will continue with the project and discussions of the cost.