Water focus of town hall meeting

State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, met with Quay County residents Tuesday night at a town hall meeting at the Logan Civic Center.

"I knew there are a lot of issues on their minds, water being one of them," Roch said, "which is why I specifically set this meeting up in Logan."

Roch said he knew the topic of the Ute Water Pipeline would come up during Tuesday night's Town Hall meeting.

"The water in that reservoir is the lifeblood of this community," Roch said.

Roch first spoke to the residents about the results of the 30-day legislative session, then he opened the floor to questions.

"What is your position, on using Ute Lake as a substantial water supply for people who have not been responsible with the water they started with," asked TJ Smith, a Logan resident.

QCS Photos: Thomas Garcia

State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico, speaks with Quay County residents tuesday night at a Town Hall meeting at Logan. Roch discussed the 30 day Legislation and spoke with the residents about their concerns.

Roch said communities including Portales and Texico have begun conservation programs in an effort to reduce water usage. He said he first heard of the program in 1996 while working for U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici's office in Washington D.C..

"I have done some research on this project and even approached the Interstate Streams Commission on this matter," Roch said.

"The economic impact on our community if the lake were gone would be dire," said Larry Wallin, Village of Logan Manager.

Wallin said Logan has recently completed a $5 million dollar sewer project. But he was concerned a town without water would default on its bond payments.

"Now if the lake is drained, then the residents will leave, this village will die and we are left with a massive debt," Wallin said.

Smith said the intake structure, which the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority broke ground for in August of 2011, will also affect potential growth around Ute Lake.

"When the slab is set out in the water, someone looking to buy a home here may take a look at that and decided not to buy," Smith said.

Smith said constructing the intake structure at Ute Lake first could be seen as a lure trying to reel in more federal funding.

"Why don't they start the construction of the pipeline from their end," Smith asked. "As the pipeline develops there may be farmers interested in selling their ground water. This wouldn't be the solution to the shortage of water, but it would be a help now to them."

Roch said the issue of the water leaving Ute Lake would still exist even if the authority decided to scrap the pipeline project.

"The next persons in line would step right up to claim the water," Roch said. "We would be looking at Texas and Oklahoma trying to get the water down river with the Canadian River Compact."

Smith said he would like Rep. Roch to set up a sit down with Gov. Susana Martinez to discuss the pipeline project.

"We are not trying to deny anyone water rights which they have," Smith said. "We just want to come to an agreement which all parties can live with."

Roch said he would continue to look into the pipeline issue, speak with the ISC and try and set up a sit down with Gov. Martinez.

Other items discussed at the town hall included:

  • Efforts to pass legislation requiring legal residency to apply for and receive a New Mexico driver's license.
  • SB 56, allowing permits for oversize loads of hay to be transported into New Mexico to aid farmer relief of feeding live stock and the increase in the price of feed due to the drought.
  • A $250 million surplus allowed money to be put towards capital outlay programs in back into programs which were cut.

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