Clovis mayor hopeful of federal money for Ute Water Project this year

FNM file photo Brumfield speaks at the groundbreaking of the first phase of the Ute Pipeline Project in August. A crowd of protesters can been seen in the background. The protesters chanted and jeered during speeches by Brumfield and other officials during a groundbreaking for the Ute Water Project intake.

By Thomas Garcia

Her own political campaign aside, ensuring a sustainable water source for Clovis, Portales and other eastern New Mexico communities has been and always will be a top priority, Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said Friday.

“The need for continued work to secure funding and compromise with the entities involved is obvious,” Brumfield said regarding a rift over the Ute Water Project between concerns in Quay County and those in communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Officials in Quay County worry diverting water from Ute Lake would affect what has become a valuable and lucrative recreation resource. But the water is necessary for communities such as Portales and Clovis, which is why the dam was built, creating the reservoir in the first place.

While Brumfield is currently seeking re-election as mayor of Clovis, she is steadfast in her duties as Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority’s chair.

“It is important to remain diligent in our efforts to complete the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System,” Brumfield said.

Brumfield said as the new year begins, she has seen signs of additional federal funding for the $432 million water system commonly known as the Ute Water Project.

“I just recently heard that the Bureau of Reclamation has received money to put into different projects,” Brumfield said. “We are hopeful that our project is one of those selected to receive the federal appropriation.”

Brumfield said if the pipeline project receives the new money allocated to the Bureau of Reclamation, it may open the door to additional federal funding. She said with new federal funding there is a strong chance of additional state money becoming available.

“We continue to see support from both the federal and state level,” Brumfield said. “We have come along in the past five years with this project.”

Brumfield said since the project was authorized, they have received $25 million from the State’s Water Trust Board.

“The money we have received has helped us to begin the first phase of the project this past year,” Brumfield said.

In August, Brumfield, three dozen public officials and supporters attended the first phase’s groundbreaking ceremony for an intake held at Ute Lake.

While it was a ceremonious step for the project, it was marred by jeers and chants of hundreds of protesters. Their disapproval centered around fear the authority’s pipeline project will drain the lake.

“We do not want to drain the lake,” Brumfield said Thursday at a Ute Reservoir Committee meeting. “It is not nor has never been our agenda to drain the lake.”

Brumfield stressed to the committee the need to clear up what she called misinformation about the project.

“There has been concerns about establishing a minimum pool level,” Brumfield said. “I understand their (Quay County) concerns, but assure them I agree with the proposed 3765 (feet).”

Brumfield said the authority is doing all it can to assure residents the authority is not a threat to their livelihood.

Brumfield along with several area officials including Portales Mayor Sharon King were in attendance of a steering committee meeting Thursday in Tucumcari.

The meeting focused on the development of policies to ensure Ute Lake water levels for recreation while providing water to Curry and Roosevelt counties.

“We are all part of Eastern New Mexico,” Brumfield said. “We need to work together to ensure that all parties are treated equal and benefit from this project.”

Robert Lumpkin, a Tucumcari city commissioner and member of the newly formed Tucumcari Quay County Regional Water Authority, said cooperation between the parties involved is vital.

“We know the importance of this project,” Lumpkin said. “We need to work together to make sure the water in the Ute Reservoir is put to use by those in need in our region and state.”

Brumfield said the project affects and connects all of the communities of Eastern New Mexico.