By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Tucumcari is the latest entity to drop out of the Ute Water pipeline project. That means the number of members has dwindled from 12 to 8 for the $300-million proposed pipeline.
Tucumcari Mayor Mary Mayfield wrote a letter to Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority System Chairman David Lansford stating the city of Tucumcari voted to discontinue participation in the project. The letter was dated Wednesday. Quay County dropped out last month. San Jon and Logan dropped out earlier.
Despite the losses, Clovis Mayor Lansford and Ute Water Project Manager Scott Verhines remain optimistic. They emphasize the project hinges on federal funding. Verhines said the good news is that area entities are becoming clear on whether they are in or out of the project.
Knowing which communities want to participate in the project — to pump water from Ute Lake near Logan across eastern New Mexico to communities that include Clovis and Portales — will help engineers prepare for the design of the pipeline.
The water authority plan calls for the federal government to fund 80 percent of costs and New Mexico and ENMRWA 10 percent each. This means Clovis would pay about $11.6 million and Portales $4.6 million if the plan goes through.
While ENMRWA officials have said it’s important for local entities to be united in hopes of securing funding for the project, Verhines said he’s confident the loss of the northern entities will not sideline hopes.
“We have actually asked those questions to our congressional delegation (staff members for U.S. Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. and Jeff Bingaman D-N.M.),” Verhines said. “We asked if they (federal lawmakers) are going to look at the project in a different way. They told us they still believed it’s needed even if entities dropped out. They will support the project because there is still a need for a regional water source for the area.”
Lansford said he was surprised to hear that Tucumcari dropped out. “I suspect they felt they didn’t have an immediate need for water,” he said.