Funding bill passes Senate committee

Freedom Newspapers

The Senate Conservation Committee passed a $255 million bill Tuesday that includes $40 million for the Ute Water Project, according to Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis.

The bill, which calls for non-recurring dollars to fund seven projects around the state, is heading to the Senate Finance Committee for review.

“Any of the committees have the opportunity to amend, so there is a chance (money could be lowered),” Harden said. “I’m hoping the philosophy behind the bill will hold true.

“We’ve got a sizable windfall of money that’s not recurring. If there is a year to carve out a significant amount of money to deal with statewide water projects, this should be that year.”

Gov. Bill Richardson has made clear intentions to view 2007 as the “Year of Water” during the legislative session.

The Ute Water Project calls for a pipeline from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to supply water to eight entities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

The project cost is estimated at $436 million, with a proposed funding level of 75 percent from federal monies, 10 percent from authority members and 15 percent from state funds. The $40 million in the bill is roughly two-thirds of the state share.

The bill also includes:

• $35 million for the Navajo-Gallup pipeline and non-Indian irrigation ditch improvements on the San Juan River,

• $30 million for the Middle Rio Grande Collaborative Program for biological opinion requirements regarding the endangered silvery minnow, and

• $50 million for safety improvements across the state for 94 dam hazards and 800 to 1,000 community irrigation canals called acequias.
Harden is optimistic the bill will pass because of its broad appeal.

“I’m hoping the bill, as presented, will remain intact,” Harden said. “I think anytime a bill is introduced with the amount of passion I have for this bill expectations will be high. I understand there’s a gap between vision and reality, and I hope that vision’s not broad.”