Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield thinks the appointment of Scott Verhines as the state’s new top water manager is nothing but positive for the Ute Water Project.
Verhines was named state engineer Thursday by Gov. Susana Martinez. He is a civil engineer from Albuquerque and project manager for the Eastern New Mexico Water Authority (ENMWA), the umbrella agency for a $500 million Ute project that plans to provide water to communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.
The state engineer is New Mexico’s water czar — a critical job in a drought-plagued state, said Martinez.
Brumfield, who chairs the ENMWA, said Verhines will likely have to resign as manager for the Ute project and “We will start immediately ... we will get to work on it.”
Brumfield said she wasn’t 100 percent sure Verhines would have to resign but she expected he would. She said she was meeting with Verhines in Albuquerque on Thursday and was prepared to convene the water authority quickly to begin the search for his replacement.
“We hate to lose him as program manager,” said Brumfield. “He knows the project and believes in the project and thinks it is the answer to eastern New Mexico’s water for the sustainable future.”
Brumfield said Verhines work with the ENMWA and Ute is a bonus for seeing the project reach completion. Plans call for diverting water via pipeline from Ute Reservoir in Quay County to communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.
“Yes, we think the appointment of Mr. Verhines is a good thing ... he will be supportive of the project,” said Brumfield.
Verhines will oversee the allocation of water for farmers, ranchers, communities and industry. The state engineer also protects New Mexico’s rights to water in rivers and streams that cross state boundaries.
“As we face some of the driest conditions in New Mexico’s history, responsible water resource management is more important than ever,” Martinez said in a statement.
Verhines replaces John D’Antonio, who is leaving to join the Army Corps of Engineers in Albuquerque. D’Antonio had held the job since his appointment in 2003 by then Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson.
Verhines, 55, is a Republican who owns a 10-person consulting engineering firm with offices in Albuquerque and Roswell. He was born in Albuquerque but grew up in Santa Fe and Artesia.
As state engineer, he will be paid $125,000 a year.
He earned an undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 1979 from Texas Tech University and a master’s degree in civil engineering, with a focus on water resources, in 1991 from the University of New Mexico. He received a master’s degree in business administration from UNM in 2002.