Village officials asked how much water they need

By Tony Parra

How much water do you need? That’s the question Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority Project Manager Scott Verhines asked ENMRWA members on Wednesday in Portales.
Verhines said he wants the information so engineering consultants have an idea on the specifications of the pipes leading to each community involved in the Ute Water Project. He asked that entities provide the information by February.
The Ute Water Project is a plan to pump water from Ute Lake near Tucumcari to communities throughout eastern New Mexico, including Clovis and Portales.
Representatives from Texico, Melrose, San Jon and Elida requested Verhines and other water officials meet with village officials to determine the amount of water needed to be pumped into their communities.
Clovis Mayor David Lansford discussed using the village of Grady as a model showing what need the entity has for water, how much it can afford and how the entity can avoid wasting water purchased from the Interstate Streams Commission in its negotiations with ISC.
Currently the village of Grady is obligated to purchase 75 acre-feet of water from Ute Lake according to an agreement with the ISC. Grady officials say they can’t afford 75 acre-feet of water each year and want to change the contractual agreement to 25 acre-feet per year, which they actually use.
Verhines said ENMRWA will be negotiating with the ISC on the cost and fees of water each entity purchases from Ute Lake.
Lansford, who is also the ENMRWA chairman, said he does not like the idea of an entity purchasing a certain amount of water in reserve in Ute Lake and then being forced to use it or lose it. Instead, he hopes communities can be allowed to purchase only the water they expect to use.
In other business at the meeting:
• Lansford said he and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega met with Bureau of Reclamation representative Miguel Rocha in Denver on Tuesday. He said the Bureau of Reclamation representatives want to assign an ENMRWA oversight committee. He said Bureau of Reclamation members asked general questions about the Ute Water Project.
Lansford said bureau members want participants from the Ute Water Project to be prepared for several different funding scenarios. He said the members would not endorse the current funding setup — 80 percent funding from federal government, with the state paying 10 percent and local governments paying 10 percent of the project.
According to Lansford, the members want the ENMRWA to have backup plans in case the federal government only provides 65 percent or 50 percent funding for the Ute Water Project.
“I think we need to have 80-10-10 funding,” Ortega said. “That is how we are basing our ability to fund the project. There are concerns if we start dropping in federal funding.”
Lansford also told bureau members the ramifications of the Ute Water project if it does not receiving 75 to 80 percent federal funding.
“In my community, we would have to prepare for a downsize,” Lansford said. “When you can’t supply enough water to meet (residents’) needs, we’re not going to be able to provide for as many residents. Residents would be forced to move out.”
ENMRWA members scheduled their next meeting for 10 a.m., Jan. 19 in Tucumcari.