Vaughan Pipeline begins flowing

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Members of the Bureau of Reclamation and Interstate Stream Commission take a hayride Wednesday from the Vaughan Pipeline.

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 Vaughan, 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.”