Developers clash with officials

Mike Linn

Two area developers with big plans for Ute Lake have met resistance from officials who fear development may contaminate the lake’s water, reserved as a future drinking supply for residents of Eastern New Mexico.

Clovis’ Sid Strebeck and Logan developer Warren Frost, who both sell lots along Ute Lake’s south shore but are not partners, are asking the Interstate Stream Commission to pass a resolution in support of economic development around Ute Reservoir. The resolution seeks support of additional residential property around the lake, community boat docks and ramps and a golf course along the south side of the lake.

The resolution raised concerns for Eastern New Mexico Water Authority Chairman David Lansford when it appeared on ISC’s Sept. 13 agenda. The resolution was tabled, but is expected to come before the board at the Oct. 19 meeting in Las Cruces. “The Ute Water Commission, the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority are all in favor of development around Ute Reservoir, as long as that development doesn’t affect water quality,” Lansford said.

Lansford and Doug Murray of the ISC said they fear fertilizer from a proposed golf course along the banks of Ute could seep into the lake and contaminate the water.
Another concern is that a group of already existing homes on the lake’s north side are equipped with septic systems, which contribute to 90 percent of ground water contamination in New Mexico, state environmental officials say. “Because water quality protection of the reservoir is the number one priority, any planning or developing around the reservoir needs to be considered in a master plan for the reservoir,” said Murray, ISC’s project manager for Ute Reservoir.

Lansford is concerned reduced water quality will increase the costs and or dismantle the $307 million Ute Water pipeline plan, a proposed project to pipe water from Ute Lake to residents in Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Strebeck said his property on the south shore would be equipped with a sewer system, which is more environmentally sound than septic systems on the north side. As for the golf course, Strebeck said he’d make sure the fertilizer would not damage the water quality. “This is a case of misinformation, somebody’s not doing their homework,” Strebeck said. “We won’t be allowed to contaminate the lake.”

He said that any development hurts the environment, but he’s confident engineers would make sure development is environmentally sound and meets all state requirements.
Moreover, Strebeck said the property is his, and as long as he’s not hampering the water quality, he can put hogs or a dairy there if he so chooses. “If we take away all economic development from here, and we shut down agriculture, and we shut down everything to protect our water supply, we won’t have a reason to have a water supply,” he said. “There are some challenges and we all need to work together. The last thing I want to do is contaminate the water.”

Lansford was critical of Ute Lake developers for not attending Ute water meetings and sidestepping the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority by not informing them of their intent to get the ISC to pass the resolution. “They’ve never come to us and said ‘Let’s work together and have a win-win situation for Logan, Clovis, Portales, Grady and everybody else,’” Lansford said. “The primary use of that reservoir is for municipal water … and attempts to have competing demands for that water is not appropriate, and I will fight to death to make sure this project goes forward.”