Arch Hurley seeking to protect watershed

Chelle Delaney

A one-year, four-month protest against the drilling of water wells in Largo Canyon has paid off for the Arch Hurley Conservancy District.

A rancher who wanted to drill the wells has withdrawn his request to the state for the wells, said Franklin McCasland, Arch Hurley manager, at Tuesday’s district board meeting.

Arch Hurley filed the protest with the Office of State Engineer because it wanted to prevent any diversion of water that would eventually come into the Tucumcari irrigation project.

The initial protest was against the drilling of 16 wells in Largo Canyon by the Rimrock Rose Ranch.

Rimrock Rose Ranch had said it would lower the number of wells, however, Arch Hurley still protested, and Rimrock Rose Ranch withdrew its request for all of the wells, according to Arch Hurley’s copy of Rimrock Rose’s Apirl 13 letter to the OSE.

The cost of the legal action to Arch Hurley is about $5,000, with some bills still pending, McCasland said.

“It was money well spent,” said Pete Tatschl, a member of the district.

In a move to discover if there is further diversion, the board approved a letter to Tim Farmer, manager of the OSE District VII office in Cimarron, requesting information about possible diversions on the Mora and Sapello rivers near La Cueva.

The OSE established the Cimarron office less than a year ago to “administer water rights, process water rights applications and perform other Office of the State Engineer functions for the Canadian River basin, the Clayton basin and the Tucumcari basin,” according to an August 2008 press release.

Arch Hurley’s letter states that in addition to the drought, “Unauthorized diversions of water above Conchas Dam, and within the Canadian River Watershed, could also be affecting our ability to meet Full Duty use (of water from Conchas).”

McCasland showed pictures, which have been sent to the OSE, where there are ditches leading off the Mora River that feed lakes which are being used to supply sprinkler irrigation systems. The Mora River and the ditches from the river do not show any measurement devices.
Arch Hurley is also requesting the quantity of water rights by the Salmon Ranch and Buena Vista Ranch are in an area near the Mora River.
“I think we have to push (for information),” said Arch Hurley board chairman Larry Perkins.

District member Jess Weaks said Arch Hurley should “pursue it hard.”

Another district member, Ray Bates, said, “Get the governor (to sign the letter). We need something to happen and not in another 40 years.
“Someone is supposed to be monitoring that (water usage on the rivers),” said Gary Cordova, Army Corps of Engineers” manager for Conchas Dam.

Cordova gave a report on recent activities at Conchas Dam which have included lead abatement and refurbishing the exterior of the conduits and headworks at the dam.

The dam is currently undergoing a complete replacement of its electrical system.

Another project under consideration is examine and repair the six sets of gates at the dam, and dewater the stilling basin so that the gates can be inspected and determine how much and why leakage is occurring.

Hydraulic Engineer Roberta Ball also presented the expected inflow into the lake from the snowpack.
“It’s drier up there than last year,” Ball said.

Ball said the projections are worse than last year and no irrigation water was expected from the snowpack.

In other matters to come before the board:

• Twelve miles along the Hudson Canal have been cleaned and graded to their original Bureau of Reclamation design. Two and a half miles remain to be graded. Concrete weirs and siphons in some canals have been replaced or repaired, and sections of other canals have also been cleaned and regraded, according to McCasland’s manager’s report.

• Arch Hurley will also apply for conservation grants that have been enhanced by the federal stimulus package, McCasland said.

• Conchas Lake is still low, and the board did not allocate any water for the district.

Following its next monthly board meeting at 9 a.m. on May 12, Arch Hurley will hold a work session at 1 p.m. to discuss measuring devices to be used to determine water use by members in the irrigation project. A special invitation to the work session is to be sent to members who irrigate with sprinkler systems that are not being measured, Perkins said.