Tucumcari wants smaller share of pipeline cost

By William Thompson: Freedom Newspapers

LOGAN — Now that Tucumcari has reduced its projected water needs by two-thirds, it wants to see its costs related to the Ute Pipeline Project reduced accordingly.

Tucumcari currently is scheduled to pay one-fourth of the costs of a proposed project that would pipe water from the Ute Reservoir near Logan to 10 eastern New Mexico communities, including Clovis and Portales.

However, Tucumcari officials have sent two letters to the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority in the last few months, declaring the town had reduced its projected water needs from 6,000 acre-feet to 2,000 acre-feet, thus justifying lower costs.

Tucumcari Mayor Mary Mayfield said the city’s share of the pipeline project costs should be cut by two-thirds.

Despite their request to participate in the pipeline project at a lower level, Tucumcari officials say they will continue to reserve 6,000 acre feet to facilitate future economic development.

In the original letter sent to the water authority, officials said Tucumcari could not afford to participate in the pipeline project at the 6,000 acre-feet level, City Manager Richard Primrose said. The second letter, sent in the last couple of weeks, requested the city’s share of the project cost be re-appropriated, he said.

No action was taken regarding the request.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Mayfield and Primrose said despite their requests for a smaller share of the cost, the city remains committed to the project.

“We have not spent all this time and money on this project for nothing,” Primrose said. “We have been involved in this project since day one.”

State and federal funds would pay for the bulk of the $300-million project if it becomes reality.

According to ENMRWA figures, if Tucumcari’s request to pay less were granted, then Clovis would pay the lion’s share of the remaining costs.

Clovis is now scheduled to pay about 51 percent of the local costs. If Tucumcari’s costs were lowered to one-twelfth of the project’s costs, Clovis would then pay about 63 percent of the local costs.

ENMRWA Program Manager Scott Verhines said he did not see Tucumcari’s request as being out of line.

“Overall percentages of costs would go up for other members, “Verhines said, “but because less water would be delivered, then overall costs would go down for everyone. At this stage of the project, we need communities to let us know to what degree they are committed to the project.”

Also on Wednesday, the Village of San Jon notified board members it no longer wished to participate in the project.

“We could no longer wait for the project to happen so we installed a pipeline to Logan ourselves,” San Jon Administrator Bobbye Rose stated in her letter. “This system will satisfy our needs and we feel we cannot ask our citizens to pay the additional costs required to fund this project.”