Officials work toward Ute Lake compromise

Thomas Garcia

A conservation steering committee said Thursday they would like to work together to establish policies that ensure Ute Lake water levels protecting recreation while providing water to Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said hers and other communities should be willing to work out a compromise that benefits everyone.

“We do not want to drain the lake,” Brumfield said. “It is not nor has never been our agenda to drain the lake.”

The Ute Reservoir Water Conservation Plan Steering Committee met at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

Officials from Tucumcari, Portales, Clovis, Logan, Quay County and San Jon were in attendance to discuss the development of a water use plan for the Ute Lake Reservoir.

“We wanted to bring the different parties together to brainstorm ideas for the plan,” said Mark Murphy, a member of the Ute Lake Reservoir Advisory Group.

Murphy, the main presenter, spoke to the members and public guests about the development of a plan incorporating conservation, drought management and setting a minimum pool level.

“A plan must be developed, and it should include education, conservation and drought management,” said Joseph P. Alderete, Resource Management Planner, Bureau of Reclamation.

Alderete stressed the importance of creating the plan as the entities had agreed would be made. He said the plan is not set in stone and could be revised at a later time.

“In the future the plan could be amended to included changes or new policies,” Alderete said.

The officials discussion focused on drought management, Tucumcari City Commissioner Robert Lumpkin said a possible tier system could be put in place.

“I like the idea of a restriction trigger system,” Lumpkin said. “We could design a tier system which would reduce the amount of water being pumped by the entities as the level drops.”

Agreeing with the tier system, Logan Village Manager Larry Wallin suggested a scale be worked on to begin a curve in the water pumped beginning at different elevation levels.

“We could set it up to begin a reduction when the elevation begins to drop past a certain point,” Wallin said. “If there continues to be a decline in elevation, there would be a reduction to correspond with that level.”

Murphy said a reduction in water would have to affect everyone equally across the board. He said the cost or impact of value of the water during the restriction should be incurred by all entities with water allocations in the Reservoir.

As officials began to discuss a minimum pool level, Wallin said there was much misinformation on this subject.

“First of all, 3,765 (feet) was a number that came from a report from the ENRWA in 2004,” Wallin said. “Then-Chair (former Portales Mayor) Orlando Ortega introduced that elevation; it was not something pulled out of the sky.”

Brumfield said there is a lot of misinformation about the intentions of the ENRWA’s plans to pump water from Ute Reservoir.

“I agree with the 3,765 elevation,” Brumfield said. “We do not want to see the lake or its residents disappear.”

King said draining the lake would not serve the interest of providing drinking water to eastern New Mexico.

Murphy said the entities will continue to work on the plan and will be asked to review technical data which will be sent to them. He said the entities will return the data with their additions and concerns.

On the topic of conservation, Lumpkin spoke about treating the salt cedars along the Canadian River.

“Salt cedars are a major problem when it comes to water consumption,” Lumpkin said.

Lumpkin said he would like to see something addressing the eradication of the salt cedar trees in the plan.

Portales Mayor Sharon King said each community should take a proactive approach in water conservation.

“We need to start conserving now,” King said. “The need to conserve should be stress now and not wait until this water system is constructed.”

King said Portales has enacted an ordinance requiring all new residential construction to have 50 percent of their landscape xeriscaped. She said new commercial construction would require more than 50 percent xeriscaping.

Lumpkin said the city commission had been approached on the possibility of offering rebates for residences that xeriscape their landscape.