Arch Hurley mulls transfer of title from BOR

By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff

Exploratory discussions about the concept of transferring its title of the Tucumcari irrigation project from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to the Arch Hurley Conservancy District were held on Wednesday at a special meeting of the district’s board.

Before any detailed planning can take place, “you want to get all the issues resolved up front,” said Connie Rupp, BOR area manager, who is based in Albuquerque.

Any objections from members, the broad legal ramifications and other aspects need to be addressed conceptually before a contract could be considered and drawn up, Rupp said.

To transfer the title would take action and approval by the U.S. Legislature, Rupp said.

“If any of you think it would be breeze, it’s not going to be be,” said district board
chair Larry Perkins. “It’s a big step, right now we’re kind of cruising.”

One aspect of assuming the title would be paying off the district’s loan from the BOR, which at its present value is $1,008,882, Rupp said.

However, different payout schedules could be arranged, she said.

It was also suggested that selling a larger allocation to the Big Mesa water system, which serves residents of the Conchas Dam area, might be one way to pay off the debt.

“You could vote yes right now,” said Jack Lemons, manager of Big Mesa, who was an observer at the meeting with several of Big Mesa’s board of directors.
Lemons said Big Mesa could use more than its current allocation.

It would be a positive use of the water and needs to considered, Perkins said.
“But once you sell, others will want to buy some and we’ve got to be ready to say, ‘no,'” he said.

The district’s attorney, Dean Border, said that if the district had title to the irrigation project, it would “not be quite as powerful” as it is under BOR ownership – a federal agency.

Rupp said some of the district’s costs and liabilities are now paid for and assumed by the BOR and are necessary considerations by the district and its members.

BOR has transferred some of its titles to other districts and agencies, Rupp said.

Since Arch Hurley does not own its water supply – only its distribution system – transferring the title could be comparatively easier, she said.

“Conceptually, I think it would be a good thing,” Rupp said.

The board agreed that it would send out letters to district members notifying them they are discussing the concept of the obtaining title from the BOR and notifying members that the concept of the title transfer would be open for questions and comments at its next regular meeting in November.

In other business before the board:

• Discussed “stacking” licenses to provide greater protection of water rights.

Stacking allows for individual land owners to own a license to the water that is on their land, as well as the district. Rupp told board members that stacking was allowed by BOR. In the eventuality that the water rights are adjudicated, it is anticipated that the courts would defer to those licenses over any other types of ownership, based on discussions with state water officials, Rupp said.
The board did not take any action on the individual licenses.

• Discussed the costs and advantages of a proposed contract, which was introduced by Rupp, for the right of way on land where a section of the canal is located on property owned by Skip Vernon. Vernon owns the land – that was sold some years ago by the BOR – where the first tunnel for the irrigation project is located after water is released from Conchas Lake.

The board did not act on the contract and will consider it at its next meeting.
Arch Hurley will have a special board meeting to review resumes of applicants for its general manager position at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Its regular meeting on Nov. 14 has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Convention Center, where its expected to accommodate more people to begin discussions on the concept of the title transfer from the BOR to the district.