By Chelle Delaney: QCS Staff
The New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) approved an agreement on Thursday that allows Ute Lake Ranch to construct and operate a golf course on the shores of Ute Lake, according to a news release from ISC.
The project has had strong backing from Quay County area governments as a catalyst to kindle new economic growth in the region, the release said. Several Quay County Commissioners attended Thursday’s meeting and have attended past meetings in support of the project.
The ISC’s action serves a two-fold purpose of protecting water quality at Ute Reservoir while promoting economic development, the release said.
In January of this year, officials representing Clovis and Portales voiced their concerns regarding the Ute Lake Ranch development at an ISC meeting.
Clovis Mayor David Lansford, who also is chairman of the Clovis area water authority board, said that as a proponent of the Ute Water Pipeline Project — which would carry water from Ute Lake to Clovis and Portales — he was concerned about water quality being adversely affected by the large amount of boat traffic the development would bring to the lake.
“I’m a boat owner so I know the fossil fuels released into the water can’t be good,” Lansford told the ISC at the time, “and where there are people there is waste.”
Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega echoed “everything Lansford said.” Ortega, co-chairman on the water authority board, said he wants the water in Ute Reservoir to be protected because it will be the water citizens are drinking.
“We know the quality of the water today,” Ortega said, “but we don’t know how it will be after this development is completed.”
While Clovis and Portales officials were wary of the Ute Lake Ranch project, Quay County officials expressed their support. The late Terry Turner, who was the Quay County Manager at time told the ISC that the project represents revenue to Quay County. “This project has already brought in $54,000 in tax revenue,” Turner told the ISC. “I can’t stress enough how important this project is to Quay Çounty.”
Ute Lake Ranch is building the golf course in association with a large-scale housing development project that is already in the works. Plans are underway for an initial nine-hole course within the boundaries of the ISC’s existing flowage easement surrounding Ute Reservoir, the release said.
Ute Lake Ranch offiicals have said the course woudl be irrigated using state of the art equipment for water perservation and purification.
The development will have single family upscale residences, patio homes, a commerical and retail center, an area for hotels, lots for equestrian homeonwer and other amenities.
Several model homes, with lake views, are nearing completion at the development now.
A flowage easement is an area that allows the ISC to flood property above lake level if necessary as part of dam operations or in the instance of natural flooding. This is a normal feature of a reservoir and the ISC has a policy relating to construction or development within the flowage easement.
“Engineers and officials of Ute Lake Ranch development and Interstate Stream Commission staff worked long and hard on a development plan that balances the needs of the project and the responsibility of the Interstate Stream Commission to protect water quality in Ute Lake,” said Interstate Stream Commission Director Estevan López, in the release.
This agreement with the ISC obligates Ute Lake Ranch to monitor water quality conditions and to address any pollution that occurs as a result of golf course operations. A system of runoff collection drains and collection ponds will operate to intercept runoff from the golf course before it enters the reservoir. The contents of the ponds will be tested periodically to ensure that contaminants don’t exceed standards for drinking water, the release said.
The ISC owns and operates Ute Reservoir, which contains water that will be available as a drinking water source for eastern New Mexico communities. U.S. Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman recently introduced a bill in Congress to authorize construction of an eastern New Mexico rural pipeline project that will use water from Ute Reservoir.
“The communities around Ute Lake made clear to the Interstate Stream Commission that they need this development to help build their regional economy,” López said. “The Commission concluded that the agreement presented succeeded in protecting water quality while enabling the development. The developers worked with staff to achieve that balance.”