Ute water agreement updated

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Contracted employees of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority updated the Clovis City Commission Thursday on its plans to move into utility authority status.

Following a 15-minute regular meeting, Project Manager Scott Verhines and two others held the floor for about an hour.

Creating a utility authority, Kevin Powers of RBC Capital Markets said, would give the authority more leverage when seeking appropriations and rates for loans. The authority currently acts as a joint powers agreement.

“Those authorities are loose; members can come and go,” Powers said. “It’s going to provide a stable platform for funding an ongoing program.”

Draft legislation for the change was introduced in the 2009 Legislature by Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, but Verhines said it was entered solely to get feedback.

Problems discovered included language that would allow the authority to take control of water and wastewater systems for any entity.
Verhines said that mechanism was intended to be merely an option for the authority’s smaller communities and not a forced choice for all entities.

Also, references to wastewater systems were eliminated.

The group, made up of eight cities and counties, including Clovis and Curry County, is responsible for the creation and management of the Ute Water Project.

The project, which gained federal authorization in March, would create a pipeline to move water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to member entities.

The federal authorization calls for a 10 percent local investment in the project (75 percent federal, 15 percent state).

The project was estimated at $432 million in 2005, but Greg Gates of the Albuquerque engineering firm CH2MHill said a new estimate is in the works.

The authority could change status on July 1 following the legislative session that passed it. Since the 2010 Legislature is a 30-day session, legislation not dealing only with the state budget would require an exception from the governor’s office.

Verhines said he would give commissioners copies of the legislation, currently under review by interim state committees, a few days prior to the authority’s July 22 meeting in Texico.

In other business: