Lansford makes pitch for water banking
Last updated 9/11/2020 at 1:39pm
CLOVIS — The city’s water policy advisory committee meeting Tuesday morning was as good a place as any for David Lansford to make his latest pitch for a water banking effort funded largely by the federal government.
But for Lansford, the former mayor and current chair of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, the meeting was also the best place to propose a city finance committee meeting to identify dollars that could go to the effort on the Readiness Environmental Protection Integration application next month.
The REPI program uses Conservation Fund dollars to match Department of Defense payments used as inducements to not do things such as building wind towers, drilling for oil or irrigating. The program has been used by Cannon Air Force Base in the past to secure land around the Melrose Air Force Range.
This application of REPI would potentially combine $15 million from the Department of Defense, a matching $15 million from the Conservation Fund and any local dollars toward efforts to negotiate with landowners on conservation easements that would convert irrigation rights into municipal water rights.
The authority is continuing to build the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, currently as an interim groundwater project with an eventual goal to connect to the Ute Reservoir in Quay County. In the interim, Lansford said, securing nearby water rights would allow the authority to act as a functional utility while reducing the pumping the land would otherwise see with irrigated farming.
“My concern has been for eight years,” Lansford said, “how do we secure water to put in this interim groundwater project?”
The city could wait until next October to start another REPI process, but Lansford said a year of irrigated farming translates to nearly four years of municipal water usage.
“I think the iron is really hot,” Lansford said, “and we need to strike.”
Any money local entities pledged to the REPI effort would not be matched by the Conservation Fund, but Lansford said it would show how serious the area is about protecting its water supply while it asks the state and federal governments to fund the ENMRWS over the next few years.
Lansford said he believed apprehension would be a fatal flaw and spoke of the possibility of renewing a gross receipts tax passed in 2011 for the water project and possibly using economic development dollars. Lansford reasoned a dwindling water supply becomes a job retention issue.
Committee chair and Mayor Pro Tem Chris Bryant said he believes a meeting needs to occur with the water authority, the city finance committee and the water policy committee to see what money can be pledged and what help the Air Force Civil Engineer Command is seeking on the application process.
“I think we’ve been having a lot of separate meetings,” Bryant said, “and we need to get on the same page.”
In other business at the meeting:
• Mark Huerta of EPCOR Water updated committee members on various items, including the completion of city fire hydrant inspections for 2020, a project to replace 260 feet of steel line at the Motor Vehicle Department parking lot and planned pipe upgrades at the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard train crossing.
Huerta, on a question from the committee, said the company was still looking into the 10 wells that had PFAS/PFOA contamination and were taken offline in February.
The wells remain offline, and Huerta said a source hasn’t been identified.
“It might be multiple sources,” Huerta said. “It’s something we’re continuing to look at.”
The company also plans to keep offices closed to the public for the remainder of 2020 with concerns about the ongoing pandemic and the upcoming flu season.
• City Manager Justin Howalt said the city is considering applying for an outdoor recreation grant to fund an educational building at the Goodwin Lake Walking Trails Park to let visitors know about the importance of the playa lake and others like it.
• Orlando Ortega, administrator for the ENMWUA, said the authority is 99% completed with its Finished Water 2 project that takes the pipeline system to Cannon. The remaining work, Ortega said, is seeding on easement properties.
The authority has $25 million already committed to Finished Water 3, which will move the pipeline to Portales.
• The next meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 13 at the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.