By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
A second scheduled controlled explosion is planned Thursday at the construction site of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority’s Ute Water Project at Ute Lake near Logan.
The crews have begun drilling and blasting for the intake structure’s initial shaft, said Gayla Brumfield, authority chair.
Brumfield said the authority has been moving equipment and supplies into place to begin the foundation work of the intake structure, which is the first phase of its Ute Water Project.
While the first phase is under construction, the authority is coordinating engineering and design for the second phase of the project, an interim pipeline that will run west toward Portales, Cannon Air Force Base and Elida.
Brumfield said the interim pipeline would be used to transport water that the authority would lease or purchase from area farmers. She said the authority would like to complete design of the project’s second phase within the next year and begin construction within the next three years, providing funding is available.
Brumfield said the authority will be seeking federal and state funding and will approach the state’s Water Trust Board for continued support.
The Water Trust Board allocated $20 million to the authority, which they used to begin the first phase of the Ute Water Project.
The project’s total estimated cost is more than $550 million, with 75 percent expected from federal funding. Once completed, the project is expected to 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.
The Village of Logan has sent a letter to the authority, saying that the authority should not be blasting because of the pending appeal filed by the Village of Logan in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo., said Thomas Hnasko, lead council for Village of Logan. The village appealed an Albuquerque U.S. District Court judge’s denial in January of the village’s request for an injunction that would have blocked the project.
Hnasko said on May 16 that the village requested an injunction in the District Court of Albuquerque to halt the authority’s construction until the Tenth Circuit Court has a chance rule on the issues presented in the appeal.
The village’s original request for injunction in the District Court called for a halt of construction. The request alleged that the authority had violated the National Environmental Protection Act by not completing an Environmental Impact Study. The court ruled the authority had complied with environmental laws, according to court documents.
Brumfield said the authority did not complete an EIS because the Bureau of Reclamation’s Environmental Assessment, which addressed the areas of greatest public concern, concluded with a finding of no significant impact.
The Village of Logan argued the EA did not address sedimentation levels depleting the reservoir volume or fisheries pools.
Hnasko said the blasting is an economic waste and brazen act by the authority, especially if the Tenth Circuit Court requires them to conduct an EIS. He said by proceeding with the blasting and construction, the authority cannot objectively analyze the project in order to validate the process, as required by NEPA.
Hnasko said the authority’s reports would be skewed in favor of the project, toward which they have already committed and spent money.