Meetings watch: Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority

Freedom New Mexico

The Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority met Wednesday at Portales City Hall.

At the meeting:

• Wendell Bostwick, Curry County’s representative and a county commissioner, said he has been approached by smaller communities within Curry County on how to transfer some of their reserved water rights at the Ute Reservoir.

Scott Verhines, project manager for the Ute Water Project, said the proper starting point was actually the Ute Water Commission. Bostwick said he could relay that information and get the process started there without much difficulty.

• Ute Reservoir Dam Manager Kent Terry said a dry month resulted in some evaporation. The reservoir, which will provide water for the Ute pipeline project to supply water to authority members, is at 91 percent capacity with 185,216 acre feet — approximately 60 billion gallons.

• Federal consultant John Ryan said the authority should be able to collect on a $1 million appropriation within the next two months. The money is planned for services and property acquisitions related to easements for the pipeline project.

Ryan said he’s hearing positive news about an appropriation of $4 million next year, but the election year makes the timing of appropriation bills unpredictable.

• State consultant Joe Thompson reported on the state water trust board meeting earlier this month. He said the board originally wanted to give the project no money, instead of a $4 million request, but State Engineer John D’Antonio was able to argue for the project to the point where the board is looking for $2.9 million.

Clovis City Commissioner Randy Crowder, present at the meeting, echoed Thompson’s comments, but said the board was basing that decision on the authority not spending all of its previous grant-loan agreements yet.

• Thompson said he is working with the Public Regulation Commission of the authority’s transfer from a joint powers agreement to a utility authority. Language in the House bill creating the authority requires an audit, but Clovis Budget Director Don Clifton said any budget submitted would be a very simple budget — likely with no cash balance and $1 million in member contributions as revenue.

• The authority approved the addition of Mark Murphy, a former program manager with the Interstate Streams Commission Program, to a contract for services affiliated with the environmental planning process for the project. Verhines said Murphy’s contacts within the state are worth the costs — $125 an hour when needed.

• Crowder said Verhines is working on creating a new group to perform the functions of the Clovis Water Users Group, which broke apart after disagreements on a state decision to allow combined water rights for New Mexico American Water. Verhines said a first meeting still has not been set for the group.

• The next meeting is June 16 in Santa Fe in conjunction with the state water trust board meeting. Verhines said the time and place are still to be determined.

— Compiled by Freedom New Mexico staff writer Kevin Wilson