Water board short of funding goal

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

SANTA FE — Even with $2.271 million in state money the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority board picked up Wednesday, the group remained short of its two-year goal for funding a portion of the design work on the Ute Water Project.

“I think it was a good news-bad news scenario,” project manager Scott Verhines said. “What it does is allow us to move the project forward for the next year.”

The rural water authority board had hoped to secure funding to take the Ute Water Project to 30 percent complete on its design by the end of 2008. That is the threshold they’ve been told is necessary to have the project considered for construction funding by Congress.

“Obviously we wanted to get the full $4 million and get to the 30 percent design, but we’ll just be grateful for what we receive,” Board President and Clovis Mayor David Lansford said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense. We’ll just be back next year asking for the remainder of the funding.”

Verhines said federal sources to make up the difference aren’t too likely because the federal government’s budget is operating under continuing resolution, but he said the project office would continue to hunt the money. He said it is likely the additional $1.7 million will need to come during next year’s legislative session.

The rural water board moved its monthly meeting to Santa Fe to be able to attend, beforehand, the state Water Trust Board meeting, which allocated its funds from the 2007 Legislature to various projects across the state.

According to Verhines, ENMRWA requested $2.271 million from Water Trust Board and $5 million from the Legislature. When the Legislature only funded $1 million of their request, ENMRWA asked the state water board to consider making up the difference in the Legislative shortfall.

In the last two years, requests to the WTB have been cut in half.

“We’re on track and moving full speed,” Lansford said. “We’re upbeat about the project. It’s bigger than anything any of us has ever done or probably ever will do and its important.”

In other business the board:

• Renewed its management contract with G.C. Engineers for another year in a unanimous vote. This will be the third year of an annually renewable four-year contract.

• Met Mark Murphy, a new manager with the Interstate Stream Commission, who will be overseeing the Ute Lake watershed.

• Discussed plans for a field hearing on the project that is tentatively set in July for the Clovis/Portales area.