Rural water authority considering lobbyist

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

The governing body of the Ute Water Project hopes this spring to have an analysis that would show what would happen if the project is not completed.

Clovis Mayor and Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority Chairman David Lansford told the project’s engineering consultants that meetings to distribute federal funds for such projects take place in May.

The analysis would project what would happen if communities were forced to retire farms to save water and estimations on when water wells will run dry.

“It is an important tool and very valuable to us in our efforts,” Portales Mayor and water committee vice-chairman Orlando Ortega said during ENMRWA’s monthly meeting held Wednesday in Clovis. “We need to address the ‘no project issue’ to become part of the analysis. I’ve spoken to (U.S. Sen.) Jeff Bingaman, (U.S. Rep.) Tom Udall, (U.S. Sen.) Pete Domenici and they believe it’s a big part of the project.”

Walter Hines, senior engineer with CH2M, said some information could be gathered before May.

In other business:
• Lansford presented the idea of hiring a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying service to promote the $300-plus million project that would pipe water from Ute Lake near Logan to nine cities and three counties.

Lansford said state and federal funding cannot be used to pay for lobbyists. Lansford suggested city and county general reserves as possible sources.

Lansford said the cost for two months of the service is $20,000.

Lansford suggested the fee be divided proportionate to the percentage of water each ENMRWA member has in the Ute Lake.

• Engineering consultants discussed duties in the first phase of the Ute Water Project and what are the technical alternatives for each community.

Lansford said $2 million is being taken out of the water trust fund to pay for the engineering services. Lansford said $1.4 million is for the engineering consultants.

The first phase includes aspects mostly related to the architecture of the project. Two other phases, construction and operation/maintenance, will follow.

Hines provided the members with a presentation on tasks and costs the consulting firm will be working on. Some of the tasks include:

• A cost and schedule report

• Conceptual designs and costs

• A best technical alternative for the project and special studies.

Hines said special studies entails finding out the primary power needed to pump the water to each of the communities and the costs. It also entails the capacity and limitation of a power grid. Special studies also requires CH2M to evaluate the current groundwater in communities and whether the Ute water combined with the groundwater will have an effect on the quality.

According to Hines, the purpose of the best technical alternative is to demonstrate the best-case scenario with federal, state and local funding ratios for the project.