Questions about title transfer of Arch Hurley brings out large group

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

With the water getting to be a bigger concern, about 70 ranchers and farmers met last night to hear the possibilities of transferring ownership of the Tucumari irrigation canal, which is operated by Arch Hurley Conservancy District, from the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to the local conservancy district.

Farmers and ranchers talked about ways that they could shore up their legal rights to the irrigation water, that get from their wells, as well as water that’s provided by the canal.

“We have a unique little irrigation district,” said conservancy district board president Larry Perkins, who opened the meeting.

But once the district has title, “It’s all of us on our own, the bureau will be out of it. Once the bureau is out of the picture, all of the rules and regulations are also out of the picture.”
Jim Dowell questioned whether or not the district could overturn, “a contract with the federal government.”

Donald Carter said that a decades-old federal contract, “as long as you never break the original contract,” might provide more protection that if the conservancy district were to have ownership.

Perkins said, that in looking toward the future, there might be more protection of water rights to: “Get it out of the government’s name and into our name.”

Bob Morgan suggested that the board investigate the prospect of each landowner licensing his or her water rights, under the umbrella of the conservancy district.

Carter also suggested that the board hire a water attorney who could come before the group to explain and discuss the pros and cons of similar title transfers between irrigation agencies and the BOR.

In its regular meeting – before the special meeting to discuss a title transfer – the board handled the following business:

• The district’s manager said that priorities were being placed on winterizing equipment and the canal. Special emphasis will be placed on the canal section near Quay Road 65, north and south of town, to prevent seepage.

• Agreed that water flow meters would be investigated for cost and best use. A manufacturer’s representative is expected to provide additional information on the placement of the flow meters in canal and its laterals and their instrumentation. The district has about $5,000 set aside for expenditures, Perkins said.

• Agreed to give each district staff member a $450 Christmas bonus. Board President Perkins said the bonus “is not an additional burden on the district” and that it was the same as last year’s bonus for staff.

• Agreed to review at its next meeting a draft of proposed legislation – that would be sent by the end of the year to Santa Fe lawmakers for a change in the state statute – to change qualifications for those who could run in elections for the district’s at-large and municipality representatives.

• Board member David Foote proposed that the district apply for water conservation grant funds to build a water laboratory, where various aspects of the canal and its water could be studied, and that it could eventually become a training center. No action was taken.

• Agreed that the Arch Hurley Conservancy District offices will close on Dec. 15 and reopen on Jan. 2.
• Agreed to change its monthly meeting time from in the morning to 5:30 p.m. beginning next month. Board members said they thought the later time would enable more members to attend. The meeting time will be reevaluated in spring.

The board’s next meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 12.