Ute Water authority mulls status

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority members revisited a change first considered in 2007 — moving to a true utility authority.

Scott Verhines, Ute Water Project Manager, gave a potential timeline and goals sought for such a change at Wednesday’s authority meeting.

The authority, tasked with the Ute Water Project, currently operates as a joint powers agreement. While it’s not a necessary maneuver, Kevin Powers of RBC Capital Markets said, it helps in procuring funds.

“It’s not a mandate,” Powers said, “but we have found with joint powers authorities … it’s much less stable than a pure authority.”

When the option was first discussed in late 2007, the move to a true authority would require approval from the state Legislature and would allow for better bond rates and lower match amounts on grant and loan agreements.

The measure didn’t get much traction because 2008’s session was only 30 days, but the 60-day session in 2009 provides a better opportunity.

Verhines said key issues include the authority’s status with federal authorization of the project and jurisdiction — the Ute Water Project would include entities in Curry and Roosevelt County, but the water provided is in the Ute Reservoir in Quay County.

Authority members would most likely be appointed, Powers said, though elections would be required should the authority seek acquisition of general obligation bonds.

The group scheduled a work day at 10 a.m.