Pipeline prospects proving poor

Jack King and TV Hagenah

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici R-N.M. told members of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority last week that he will not be supporting federal funding of the Ute Water Project for at least two years, a spokesman for ENMRWA said Wednesday.

Tucumcari City Manager Richard Primrose said the Senator told a group of ENMRWA representatives from Eastern New Mexico who had traveled to Washington D.C. last week to lobby for the Ute Lake Pipeline that he would not be supporting the project for at least two years. Primrose said the Senator pointed out that what with the expenses of the ongoing War in Iraq, money is not available enough for the pipeline project at this time and that was the reason for his lack of support for the project.

“We did get the support from Senator Bingaman D-N.M., and U.S. Representative Udall though,” said Primrose. “Senator Bingaman is introducing legislation for the pipeline in the Senate and Udall is introducing a similar bill in the House of Representatives and that’s a good sign.” Primrose said that while having the two bills introduced by the two Democratic members of New Mexico Congressional Delegation for Eastern New Mexico was good, having a home-state Senator say he would not be supporting the bill was far from a good portent for the bill’s success.

Domenici and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner John W. Keys told a Congressional subcommittee on June 17 they will not support a bill authorizing the project to receive federal money at this time. “I’m new at this and don’t know, but it seems to me that you’d like to have everybody up there (Washington D.C.) from your state on board if you hope to get it through.” The Tucumcari City Manager said while a bit put off by the news about Domenici it is not totally a deal breaker. He said the bills will continue in Congress and there are other alternatives that can be turned to in the mean time.

Fellow member of the Water Authority, Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega agreed with Primrose. “We need to look at another game plan to get us through this time, if funding is not authorized in 12 to 24 months,” said Ortega. Project Manager Scott Verhines said Water Authority board members have been discussing how to find a combination of local, state and federal funding to get the project through the next two years. Primrose said because of the lack of support by Domenici and the Bureau of Reclamation, the Water Authority is looking at things like a Request for Proposal or doing a NEPA study.

ENMRWA board members who were not to Washington last week to seek support for the bill were: Primrose, Ortega, Verhines, Tucumcari Mayor Antonio Apodaca and Clovis City Commissioner Catherine Haynes. Bingaman and Michael Conner, Democratic counsel to the Senate’s Energy and natural Resources Committee, cited two concerns about the bill said Ortega. They said one concern is the 80 percent federal funding requested for the project. Connor said the federal government has only funded three projects at more than 7 percent since 2000. The second concern to the Bureau of Reclamation’s objections to funding water treatment projects in Tucumcari and Logan as part of the Ute Water Project since as a rule the Bureau of Reclamation does not fund waste water treatment projects.

A representative for the BOR, Miguel Rocha said in fact on occasion, the bureau does make exception regarding the no funding of waste water treatment projects.
He said the bureau built and owned a waste water treatment project in Arbuckle, Okla.