Congressional delegation introduces Ute pipeline legislation

Freedom New Mexico Staff

WASHINGTON — New Mexico’s Congressional delegation introduced legislation Thursday in both chambers of Congress to help meet eastern New Mexico’s future water needs by authorizing the federal government to build a pipeline that will carry water to several communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

“I am very pleased that the bill has been introduced. I applaud our Congressional delegation for their leadership on this important matter,” said Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega, Jr., who serves as vice chairman of ENMRWA. “Our goal is to secure authorization and appropriations for this project as soon as possible, and this hopefully brings us closer to that goal.”

The legislation, called the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System Authorization Act, authorizes the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to spend up to $327 million to assist the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority in the construction of the pipeline. The water will come from the Ute Reservoir, which was built on the Canadian River in 1959 as a sustainable water supply for eastern New Mexico.

Under the legislation, the state and ENMRWA, which represents communities in eastern New Mexico that will benefit from the pipeline, will contribute 20 percent of the cost of construction. ENMRWA will operate and maintain the pipeline.

“The water supply and long-term security made available through this project is absolutely critical to eastern New Mexico’s future,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM. “After years of planning, we are now ready to take the next big step toward making the Ute pipeline a reality.”

The bill needs to make it through House and Senate committees before being put to a vote. Local officials will travel to Washington (likely later this month) to testify in hearings during that process.

“There has long been a recognized need for a reliable and safe supply of potable water for eastern New Mexico,” said Rep. Tom Udall, D-NM. “After years of drought and ever-increasing population growth, this water supply legislation … is now absolutely critical for the continued economic well-being of Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties. We cannot stand by and watch vibrant communities dissolve into ghost towns, especially when solutions exist.”

Other local leaders expressed their support of the long-anticipated legislation.

“The communities of Eastern New Mexico who are members of the Water Authority are extremely grateful for the leadership provided by our congressional delegation on moving this project forward,” said David Lansford, Chairman of the ENMRWA. “The Ute Water Pipeline Project represents a vibrant future to … communities in Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties.”

Communities that will be served by the pipeline include: Grady, Clovis, Melrose, Texico, Portales, Elida, Cannon Air Force Base, and possibly other locations in Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties.