Ute Lake Ranch clears first hurdle for water pipeline

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

CLOVIS � The Ute Lake Ranch project received its first approval from the Ute Water Commission Wednesday to build a facility to take water from the lake for its residential community.
“This brings us one step closer in the final process of providing domestic water to not only Ute Lake Ranch but the surrounding communities,” said Bruce Hamon, of Denver-based Hamon Contractors Inc., one of the investors in the golf course community.
The commission is made up of representatives from governmental agencies that have a stake in how water is used from the reservoir. They met in Clovis with officials from the Interstate Stream Commission and Ute Lake Ranch. Governmental officials from Tucumcari, Logan and Quay County who serve on the water commission have been working on the proposed water intake facility at Ute Lake Ranch for two years.
The water commission approved the development’s request for a point of diversion and preliminary intake structure on the southwest shore of Ute Lake Ranch.
“The pipeline will be 30 feet below the normal water level of the Ute reservoir,” said Jason Garside, project manager with Phelps Engineering and Development Services of Denver. The pipeline and pumps to bring out water from the lake are at the point of diversion.
“Steps have been taken to protect the wildlife, like an intake screen that will be installed on the pipeline to prevent any fish from entering the pipe,” Garside said.
“We will be paying for the complete cost of the intake structure on our own which could be between $1.5 million and $2.5 million,” Hamon said.
The diversion point will be very beneficial to Quay County, Quay County Manager Richard Primrose said.
The intake structure planned in the Mine Canyon area, or the southwest shore of the lake, is closer to a lot more Quay County communities that might want to take advantage of water from the lake, Primrose said.
“The county will also save on the pumping cost, pipeline construction and operating and maintenance cost, Primrose said.
Quay County was involved in the Ute Water Project being developed by the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority. The authority plans to build a pipeline from Ute Lake to eight eastern New Mexico entities. Quay County pulled out of the project because of the anticipated costs of the $432 million project. Now, however, with the water being able to be diverted from Mine Canyon to Tucumcari, it will be less costly for Quay County to take advantage of its water reservation, Primrose said.
The county has been paying reservation rights for the water for several years, Primrose said.
“It is a great feeling for us to be able to provide the surrounding communities with access to water that they have been paying reservation rights on for so many years,” Hamon said.
Now that the point of diversion is approved by the Ute Lake Commission, the commission will make a recommendation for approval to the ISC which in turn must have the plan approved by the ISC commission, and finally seeks the approval of the State Engineer’s office.
Part of the approval process includes meeting several dozens guidelines required by the ISC. Those requirements were described by an ISC’ official Mark Murphy. Ute Lake Commission member Franklin McCasland, asked for a copy of the requirements. The official said the requirements were his interpretations of the guidelines and they needed to have the State Engineer’s office review and that a copy was not on hand to distribute.
McCasland asked that a copy be sent to the water commission members.
Construction of the pipe and pumps is expected to start this year, Hamon said.
Ute Lake Ranch is currently leasing water directly from the ISC and is pumping it directly from the lake reservoir, McCasland said.
The Ute Lake Commission will meet again on March 26 in Melrose.
A Quick Look at the Ute Lake Resevoir
l The lake�s water elevation is at 78 percent capacity
l It�s current level is 29,000 acre feet. That is about 9.449 billion gallons or 4 feet 3 inches below the authorized elevation
l The lake is 50,000 acre feet or about 16.291 billion gallons or 7 feet 5 inches below the spillway
l One acre foot is 1 foot of water over one square acre or 325,829 gallons of water
l Ute Dam Manager Kent Terry said the reservoir is 13 percent below it�s authorized elevation.
l If the water level of the reservoir is below 100 percent the water stays in New Mexico. The water that rises above 100 percent of the authorized elevation is sent to Texas (according to a court ruling), Terry said.

Source: Ute Dam Manager Kent Terry