Concerns raised over Ute Lake intake structure

Thomas Garcia

Concerns over the size of an intake structure at Ute Lake for an eastern New Mexico pipeline project dominated discussion Thursday at an Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority meeting in Logan.

Members of the ENMWUA met there to discuss details of the $500 million pipeline project that will pump water from the Ute Reservoir to member communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

The intake structure is a pumping station for the water, and is the authority’s ideal project for groundbreaking purposes later this year. But Logan Attorney Warren Frost was concerned about the effects the project would have on the nearby 12 Shores at Ute Lake resort, and suggested the authority first work on infrastructure in Curry County and move on to Quay County when more funding is available.

“We want you to make progress,” Frost said to board members. “We want you to be able to demonstrate to the state and federal governments you are making progress.”

Frost said Logan and other Quay county entities are not trying to torpedo the project, which was the intended use when the Ute Reservoir was created in 1959.

“We know this project is inevitable,” Frost said. “We all concede when it is a contest between boating (in Quay County) and drinking water in Clovis and Portales, drinking water is going to win.”

Clovis Mayor and Authority Chair Gayla Brumfield said the authority will further discuss the option of the intake structure or another project at its next meeting, but expressed concern that a timeline change would delay federal and state funding, which provides for 90 percent of the project’s cost.

“We are going to take a few days to consider our options,” Brumfield said. “If we are in a construction phase it is harder for the federal or state government to take money away from the project.”

Frost said the authority might have wanted to build the intake structure on an assumption Quay County entities would also use the intake structure for the water in the reservoir they have reserved.

That assumption, Frost said, is not accurate. Instead he said, a separate intake structure, five to six miles from the authority’s pipeline, would be built by a corporation called Karma, which built the lakeside resort. That structure would be able to pump 1,500 acre feet annually, more water than Tucumcari and Quay County currently use, Frost said.

An acre foot is a unit of measurement to express one foot of water covering an entire acre of land, or 325,851 gallons.

Current authority members are Clovis, Portales, Texico, Melrose, Grady, Elida and Curry and Roosevelt counties. Quay County, Logan, San Jon and Tucumcari dropped out of the authority in 2005.

The authority meets again in a week at 1 p.m. Thursday in Portales’ Yam Theater.