Ortega urges water board members to work together

By TV Hagenah

LOGAN — Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega on Wednesday urged members of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority to work together — not independently — in efforts to negotiate with the Interstate Streams Commission for the region’s future water suppy.
Ortega criticized Tucumcari City Manager Richard Primrose for sending a letter to the ISC proposing changes to a contract between the Ute Water Commission and ISC.
Primrose defended his actions, saying water officials had previously discussed the measures Primrose proposed in his letter to ISC Chairman Jim Dunlap.
Primrose said he did not write the letter as a member of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority, but as a representative of the Quay (County) Working Group, which includes the city of Tucumcari.
In the letter, written on city of Tucumcari letterhead, Primrose wrote:
“Under the terms of the current agreement each entity pays $1.50 per acre foot per year to reserve its allotment. After careful consideration and much planning, we would like to propose the following:
“1. We would like to extend the contract for 10 years at the reservation rate of $1.50 per acre foot. For those entities that wish to go ahead and purchase their allotments, we propose that they be allowed to do so at the rate of $5 per acre foot.
“2. We further propose that the minimum pool be increased from the current 3,741.6 feet elevation to 3,765 feet elevation.
“This extension would greatly help the Ute Water Commission as well as the ENMRWA to achieve budget goals for the next 10 years as the construction of the project is developed.”
Ortega said the letter should have received approval from the water authority before being sent.
Primrose said the letter grew out of a meeting of the Quay County Working Group’s desire to secure good prices for Ute Lake water for Tucumcari and Quay County while the price was affordable.
Ortega, deputy chairman of the ENMRWA, said the Tucumcari group “went behind the authority’s back” to make contact with the ISC.
Authority member and Quay County Commissioner Franklin McCasland said he did not believe Primrose did anything wrong.
McCasland and Logan Mayor Larry Wallin said Ortega acted in a similar manner when he authored a letter to the governor of New Mexico about water policy without first consulting the authority about the topic.
Ortega acknowledged sending the letter to the governor, but said he did so primarily as mayor of Portales and not as a member of the water authority.
“Then why’d you jump all over Richard (Primrose)?” Wallin asked. “What goes around comes around.”
In other business, authority members:
• Agreed to examine a commitment agreement that will tie member entities more closely to the EMNRWA.
• Listened as Ortega and Clovis Mayor David Lansford reported on their trip to Washington D.C. to testify before a congressional committee on the progress of the Ute Lake Pipeline Project.
• Voted to continue to fund the consultants involved in the pipeline project.