More than 90 residents attended an informational meeting about the status of Ute Lake and it's future Saturday at the Logan Civic Center.
"The lake is not going to be drained any time in the near future," said attorney Warren Frost, a Logan resident. "People need to be made aware this project is decades away from operation."
Frost and Village of Logan Manager Larry Wallin spoke to the residents and answered questions that they had concerning the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority's Ute Water Project.
The project would divert water from Ute Lake Reservoir to communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties. These communities of rely on the Ogalalla aquifer entirely for their water supply and have historically placed a greater demand than what can be replaced by the aquifer's recharge rate. This has resulted in declining levels throughout the aquifer.
Frost said three lawsuits were filed to no avail to prevent construction of the first phase of the project — an intake structure on the South Side of the lake. He said the authority has the $20 million to construct the intake structure, though it would just be a shell.
"There would be no pumps installed or electrical work done to that facility," Frost said.
Frost said the $20 million could be better served buying up water rights from the surrounding farmers and ranchers. He said building the intake structure is only going to further devastate the economy of Logan.
Talk of construction of the intake structure and uncertainty of the future of the lake has hurt business, said Sam Morrow, owner of United County Mesa Real Estate.
Morrow said the state of the economy has hurt real estate sales, though for this area the uncertainty of the lake's future has hurt far worse.
Morrow said he has a branch office in Amarillo and while speaking with customers there, they have expressed an interest in purchasing a home in Logan yet are hesitant because of the water project.
Frost said water authority expects the 75 percent of the remaining estimated $550 million needed to complete the project will come from the federal government.
"Given the economy's state, I do not see the authority receiving that money in the next few years," Frost said.
Frost said even if the authority received the money in the next five years, their own project managers said it would take 10 years before they were even ready to pump water.
"I'm 50 years old and do not believe I will see water pumped out of the lake in my lifetime," Frost said.