Official asked to hold off on water level concerns

A Tucumcari city commissioner's concerns about a proposed drought management plan for the Ute Lake Reservoir were cut short Thursday by former Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield.

Brumfield, who chairs the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, told Tucumcari Commissioner Robert Lumpkin his concerns about water levels at reservoir should be saved for a July steering committee hearing on the plan.

The steering committee meets July 19 at Portales City Hall to hammer out details of the plan.

Lumpkin has long advocated establishing a minimum level of 3,765 feet to ensure the reservoir is not drained by the Ute Water Project, an ambitious plan to pipe water from the lake to supply communities that make up the water authority, including Clovis and Portales.

The proposed plan presented by Mark Murphy, a water resources scientist and consultant, sets 3,741.6 feet as the point at which no water could be pumped from the reservoir by any entity during a drought.

Maintaining minimum water levels are also part of a lawsuit filed against the authority in April by the Village of Logan, whose representatives didn't attend the meeting. The lawsuit was the subject of a short executive session from which Brumfield and authority members emerged without taking any action.

Lumpkin prefaced his concerns by saying he believes most of Tucumcari and Quay County support the Ute Water Project because it will mean increased economic development.

However, Lumpkin said, there is concern that setting the lake level lower than 3,765 feet would threaten Ute Lake, hurting property values and costing jobs in Logan and Quay County.

Brumfield countered that none of the scientific modeling studies completed for the drought management plan concluded what Lumpkin was saying. She also said communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties have the same concerns about maintaining the lake for the same reasons.

"I truly believe there is a balance," said Brumfield. "I understand your concerns. I do. Because we have the same concerns."

"I guess," said Lumpkin, "our concern is to maintain the lake as a source of economic development."

"I agree," said Brumfield, ending the discussion.

Lumpkin later apologized to Brumfield and the authority board.

In other business:

  • The authority was in informed a federal appropriations bill earmarking $1.9 million toward the water project has cleared the House and is now headed for the Senate. Brumfield also noted there is lobbying in Washington for a bill that would provide mandatory federal funding of Ute and six other rural water projects in the U.S.

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