Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Commission takes charge of money for Ute Lake study

Staff writer

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The Interstate Streams Commission has taken charge of a $50,000 capital outlay allocation requested by the village of Logan, approved in legislation and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

A spokesperson said the ISC will use the cash to update its existing study of Ute Lake’s capacity.

Officials in Quay County say that cash was intended to be used by Logan to conduct the village’s own independent study. Their claims are supported by state Rep. Dennis Roch of Logan, who requested the Legislature’s appropriation.

Roch said every capital outlay appropriation has to go through a funding agency, which is why he requested it placed with the ISC. He said when he attached the $50,000 allocation he did not foresee the ISC taking charge of the money determining the best way to use it.

“This was not my intention at all,” Roch said. “I supported the funding with the legislative intent that the village of Logan would get money, set parameters for the study and hire a firm to conduct it independently.

“I have made calls to the governor to clarify this situation and explain to her that this was not my intent for the money when I supported the appropriation,” Roch said.

Logan Village Manager Larry Wallin said the village requested the capital outlay appropriation of $50,000 to conduct an independent firm yield study of Ute Lake in conjunction with the Quay County Commission’s 40-year water plan.

“The intent for the request for this money was to have an independent, new study done to produce current and relevant data,” Wallin said. “It was not intended for the use of updating or collaborating with an existing study.”

Wallin said when the village did not receive the money or documentation for the allocation from the state, village officials contacted Roch.

Lela Hunt, ISC public information officer, said the language of HB 55, which authorized the appropriation, did not give the money to Logan or to Quay County, nor did the Office of the State Engineer or ISC request the money. The ISC is a division of the state engineer’s office.

The ISC received an appropriation last session in HB 55 of $50,000 to update the ISC’s existing Ute Reservoir Yield Study, the “firm yield study,” Hunt said, which, she said, is normal practice.

The ISC, she said, has taken charge of the appropriation it was assigned. The ISC will complete the update of the Ute Reservoir Yield Study once the research and modeling required to update it are complete.

Logan requested the study to update data on Ute Lake’s water production. The request defied the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority's steadfast intent to rely on a yield study conducted in 1994. Officials in Logan, the county and other Quay County communities argue that study is outdated.

The water authority is building the federally authorized $500 million Ute Pipeline project, designed to pump water from the reservoir near Logan to communities in the Clovis-Portales area.

Wallin said the independent study was intended to complement a water plan the Quay County Commission was going to conduct. In March, he said, the commission had authorized county government officials to apply for water plan funding from the New Mexico Finance Authority.

The finance authority approved $33,500 to cover 75 percent of the study’s costs and the commission hired HDR Engineering of Albuquerque to develop a water plan that would apply to communities within the county, said Richard Primrose, Quay County manager.

Primrose said the county and the other communities have agreed to pay the remaining portion of the water plan costs.

A new 40-year water plan would show the county seeks to meet definite objectives with its water rights, said Brad Bryant, Quay County Commission chairman. Incorporating a new and independent firm yield study that accounts for the effects of severe drought conditions would make the plan even more comprehensive, according to Bryant.

Bryant said if the county does not have a comprehensive plan, it is possible that outside interests may claim the water for their own purposes.

Primrose agreed a current firm yield study would be a great asset to include in the county’s 40-year water plan.

Wallin said he has approached the Logan Village Council to allocate money to help pay for an independent firm yield study in the absence of capital outlay funding.

State and federal courts have rejected Logan’s numerous demands for injunctions to stop the Ute Lake Pipeline project.

Quay County communities have benefited from Ute Lake’s recreational opportunities. Community leaders fear it could be threatened if water is siphoned from the lake to serve other communities without a sufficient or reliable inflow to maintain lake levels.

Gayla Brumfield, chair of the water authority, has said she is confident in existing studies and data. She said the authority will continue to move forward with the project.

The water authority began construction in February 2013 on the pipeline’s first phase, a $14 million intake structure along the reservoir’s south shore. The intake is scheduled for completion later this month.

Roch, who represents most of the communities involved in the dispute, said he attached the request for funding the study to a capital outlay request that also included $100,000 for the Ute Pipeline. He said the $100,000 was to finance a new study of the project’s feasibility.

The authority planned to use the $100,000 capital outlay toward the construction of an interim groundwater pipeline in northern Curry County. The $100,000 outlay is covering some engineering and design costs for the interim pipeline.