Water utility officials hoping for leftover federal money

Argen Duncan

The Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority representatives hope to get federal money left over from other projects at the end of the year since the Ute pipeline project wasn’t included in the president’s proposed budget.

The utility authority met Thursday morning at Clovis City Hall.

Regarding federal money, pipeline project manager Scott Verhines said the Bureau of Reclamation had high monetary obligations to existing facilities and most of the little money left for rural water programs went to American Indian projects.

William Rohwer of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said the Ute water project was competing for federal dollars with, among other things, three water rights settlements in New Mexico.

“Our competition got tougher,” he said.

Under the settlement agreements, the federal government is required to provide a large sum of money to ensure the involved entities are able to use their water rights. The two newest settlements have a funding deadline of 2017.

“There is an opportunity in this, though,” Rohwer said.

Because the other water projects aren’t ready for construction and the Ute pipeline is, he said, the authority may be able to get end-of-the-fiscal-year money. Rohwer said contracts need to be prepared in such a way that federal money could be added in if any becomes available.

Rohwer said he couldn’t promise end-of-the-year money, but he’d never seen a year in which there was none.

Verhines said the Ute water project had kept going forward despite unmet expectations in the past.

“The end of the world is not here; it’s just a matter of keeping momentum up,” he said.

In other business, the utility authority:

• had a decision on a ground-breaking date for the pipeline intake facility put on the agenda for the March meeting.

• heard Senior Water Resources Engineer Greg Gates of CH2M Hill say he expected design documents for the intake facility to be ready in April. He plans to award a contract in June.

• heard Aleta Powers report the Finding of No Significant Impact environmental statement for the whole project had been signed. The environmental compliance and permitting process is wrapping up, she said.

• heard Verhines who said state Sen. Clint Harden’s bill to allow water providers to pass costs onto consumers and raise or lower rates without going through the Public Regulation Commission seemed to be moving through the Legislature.