By Mike Linn
The Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority met on Wednesday to once again discuss many pieces of the giant jigsaw puzzle that is the Ute water pipeline project.
The meeting included the bonding of 12 entities — including the cities of Portales and Clovis — when officials from each signed on to be part of the authority at the Roosevelt restaurant in Portales.
One of the major pieces of the project discussed was money, and how $250,000 of federal money appropriated for a feasibility study on the project was reclaimed by the New Mexico Bureau of Reclamations and added to its general fund.
After significant budget cuts last year, the BOR reclaimed the funds after looking into the financial status of state organizations and committees that were seeking federal funds, said Miguel Rocha of the BOR in Albuquerque.
“The reason the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System project was to be subject to all under financing was because there was over $400,000 sitting in un-liquidated obligations (for the Eastern Plains Council of Government) at the time — that was the major justification,” Rocha said.
The authority voted to send a letter to New Mexico’s federal representatives and notify them on how the money was retained by BOR.
The EPCOG has about $300,000, money that will be transferred to the authority once the new entity signs a contract with the BOR, which should be complete by next month.
In the early stages of the project the BOR may match the authority with federal funds for various expenditures, including the hiring of a new project manager.
Once plans for the project are intact the percentage of federal funds may increase, Rocha said.
Chairman David Lansford said the authority is hoping to have that position filled by August, September at the latest.
The authority also nominated Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega to the position of vice chairman.
Ute Reservoir is one of the healthiest of its kind in the state, officials at the meeting said.
The evaporation of the lake from the heat and wind has compared well to other masses of water, and the lake is 7,500 acre feet over its levels from last year.