State judge dismisses one of three lawsuits against Ute pipeline project

A state judge on Monday granted a motion to dismiss litigation the Village of Logan filed in an attempt to halt construction on the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, also known as the Ute Water Project.

The litigation, heard by Judge Sarah Singleton of the First Judicial Court in Santa Fe, is one of three that have been filed this year against the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, a body comprised of municipalities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

The authority is responsible for the construction, operation and management of the ENMRWS, which would pump water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to the member entities of Clovis, Portales, Elida, Texico, Grady, Melrose and Curry and Roosevelt counties.

"We are very happy that this motion was dismissed," Authority Chair Gayla Brumfield said. "We believe it's time to move forward, because of our critical need with our declining aquifer and ensuring the sustainability of our water supply.

"We want to work with the village of Logan and Quay County toward a balance to ensure that both parties are mutually benefited."

The authority purchased a unit lot near the reservoir with intent to use the land as part of a pumping station. The village filed suit in May, charging that the authority was required to acquire a special-use permit, as all land incorporated through the village through annexation is zoned as single-family residential.

Thomas Hnasko of Hinkle, Hensley, Shanor and Martin of Santa Fe represented Logan in the lawsuit. He said the village is weighing an appeal, but noted Singleton had a tough decision in terms of the balance of interests between the village and the authority.

In a balance of interest case, the governmental body with the overwhelming interest — in this case, the authority's desire to provide potable water to member communities, using a reservoir built specifically for that purpose — wins out.

"Even though the decision was adverse to us," Hnasko said, "the court tried to do a good job in predicting what the New Mexico public courts would likely do."

The decision had not been filed Tuesday afternoon with the court or on newmexicocourts.com.

Two suits are still pending against the authority. The South Shore Homeowners Association filed a separate suit in May, charging the authority violated a 1996 covenant that required lots to be used only for single-family residences and connected guest homes. Hnasko said the village and homeowners association feel confident in its prospects on that suit, which will also be heard by Singleton.

Additionally, the village initiated a federal suit against the authority, charging it violated the National Environmental Protection Act by using incorrect data in its environmental assessment of the project's potential impact.

The authority meets again 10 a.m. Tuesday in the Ingram Room of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

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