The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Kevin Wilson

Water authority optimistic on construction, funding


Last updated 1/30/2021 at 2:29pm

CLOVIS — In their first meeting of 2021, the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority had a sense of optimism on many fronts, with Finished Water 2 wrapping up and Finished Water 3 construction possibly beginning in the second quarter.

The authority covered a wide amount of topics in its Thursday meeting at the authority offices. The News attended the meeting via telephone.

Federal consultant John Ryan said there are plenty of matters to be sorted that impact the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, which would eventually connect the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to authority members in Curry and Roosevelt counties. The authority is currently focusing on building the pipe infrastructure in the counties to use as a delivery method for locally-purchased groundwater before the eventual connection to the reservoir’s groundwater.

An omnibus bill in front of Congress, Ryan said, includes $114 million for five rural water projects. The ENMRWS is one of those projects, but is the last in line for funding based on its federal authorization. Last year, the project received $15 million and Ryan is hopeful to see the same or more this year.

“We’ve indicated we could spend a lot more if they would give us a lot more,” Ryan said, “but the distribution of those funds has not occurred and we’ve been unable to get inside information on any of those allocations.”

Ryan said there is potential pushback on the appointment of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M. as Interior Secretary with her support of the Green New Deal, but he does believe she will eventually be confirmed. In the meantime, Ryan said having Tonya Trujillo appointed as assistant secretary of water and science is good news. The position oversees the Bureau of Reclamation.

“Many of us have dealt with her for a long period of time,” Ryan said, “while she was with Sen. (Jeff) Bingaman or as counsel for the Interstate Streams Commission. She’s very pleasant, and she knows our project very well. That bodes well for us as we continue to look for project funding.”

An infrastructure bill from President Joe Biden, Ryan said, appears to address mainly roads, bridges and airports so far. He anticipates water projects will see some attention by the time it gets through both houses.

In other matters discussed at the meeting:

• Chairman David Lansford said the authority probably wouldn’t know much about any Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative dollars until March. The authority is hopeful to get federal dollars that would help incentivize ag producers to sell off water rights and protect the groundwater supply surrounding Cannon Air Force Base.

In the interim, the authority will be part of a seminar on establishing a land trust later this month.

• Lansford said he is hopeful the Clovis city commission will continue a quarter-percent gross receipts tax dedicated to the water project. The tax was first approved in 2011 with a 10-year sunset clause. Lansford said he plans to discuss the matter with city officials, with one suggestion for language to add.

“I think you could do it in three words: Source water acquisition,” Lansford said.

• The authority approved seven easement agreements with Cannon Air Force Base as part of Finished Water 3 construction.

“It’s worth pointing out,” Lansford said, “this process isn’t a snap of the fingers. It’s a detailed process.”

• An agreement was approved with ITS Refrigeration and Heating Inc. to take over operation and maintenance of the intake structure at the Ute Reservoir. Ortega said the decision was one made with efficiency in mind, and thanked Rex Stall for years of work helping the authority.

• The authority was given permission to apply for a drinking water revolving loan fund. The federal dollars could cover up to 75% of costs for the Texico lateral extension. Any money acquired through the loans and grants could be used as a match for awards from the state water trust board.

Lansford said it would be a great grant if the authority gets it, and getting that funding could pave the way for a similar process with an Elida later.

• Jim Honea of Jacobs Engineering told authority members that should the bidding process go smoothly, construction on Finished Water 3 could start in May or June. Finished Water 2 connected the project to Cannon Air Force Base, and Finished Water 3 will take the pipeline from the base to Portales.

• The next meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Feb. 25.


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