Vaughan pipeline delivers water for first time

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

FORT SUMNER — With a hay ride and buckets, the Interstate Stream Commission celebrated the first water delivered through the Vaughan Pipeline on Wednesday.

The pipeline, named for the third-generation Fort Sumner family that sold water rights for the project, is the first project completed through the ISC’s Strategic Water Reserve.

“This is the first, but it won’t be the last,” said Bill Hume, the policy and planning director for Gov. Bill Richardson.

The SWR was created by the state Legislature in 2005 and allows the state to acquire water rights through lease, purchase or donation to help comply with stream compacts or to benefit threatened or endangered species.

Both circumstances applied to the project. The ISC was concerned about the Pecos River Compact, a 58-year-old agreement dividing Pecos River water for Texas and New Mexico.

Also at issue was the Bureau of Reclamation’s need to provide a habitat for the Pecos bluntnose shiner, a fish currently tabbed as a threatened species.

“This is not an either-or,” BOR Regional Director Rick Gold said. “This is a plan that works for everybody.”

The pipeline extends from the Fort Sumner Groundwater Basin, the area from which the Vaughan water rights were purchased, and goes across two miles of the Vaughan property.

“Clearly they’ve shown a real respect for the land and love for the land,” Interstate Stream Engineer Estevan Lopez said of the Vaughan family. “But they also recognize there are some overarching priorities we’re trying to deal with.”

Richard Vaughn, who lives on the ranch with three other family members, including father Charles, said it made sense to do business with the state. He didn’t disclose the sale price, but said the ISC was a fair business partner.

“It was a willing seller, willing buyer situation,” Vaughan said. “No pressure at all.”

By the numbers

2 — Miles the Vaughan Pipeline goes from the Fort Sumner Groundwater Basin to the Pecos River.

4 — Months to complete the pipeline. Construction started April 2.

15 — The maximum cubic feet of water the pipeline can deliver per second. The pipeline will run at about 10-12 fps at most times.

1,790 — Approximate acre-feet of groundwater rights purchased by the Strategic Water Reserve. An acre-feet is about 325,000 gallons.