QCS Senior Writer
Despite some objections and concerns from some members, the Arch Hurley Conservancy District board on Thursday reaffirmed its earlier vote to not allocate water this fall to store a water supply for an early release next spring.
“We will be ready to deliver water to our members in March, with the weather permitting,” said Larry Perkins, district chair.
The session was a special meeting held by the board to hear from members with concerns about the board’s Sept. 11 decision to withhold water, even though an adequate supply was available for allocations.
After hearing the concerns of some members. The board voted to affirm the Sept. 11 decision, saying waiting until Marchwould better serve members.
Arch Hurley’s sole source for irrigation water, Conchas Lake, has risen more than 20 feet since July to the elevation of 4,176.46 feet above sea level due to a series of storms, including the one last week that dumped 4 to 5 inches on some parts of Quay and San Miguel counties.
The increased lake elevation would allow the district to allocate water to their members for the first time in three years. With Conchas Lake at its current level, the district would be able to allocate 9.5 inches of water per acre to all 41,000 acres in the district, said Franklin McCasland, district manager. Variables that could affect the amount available per acre include the number of acres planted and the elevation of Conchas in the spring. He said there has never been a time when all the acres in the district have been planted.
There is enough water in the ground from rainfall now to start a wheat crop and have it take hold, Robert Lopez, district member, told the board and the district should wait to release any water until the spring when it can do the most good.
The decision to hold up water allocations until March raised concerns about whether the upcoming wheat crop will be eligible for loss benefits.
There may be some difficulty with qualifying for loss benefits if the wheat crop is certified as irrigated, but the water is not released until March, said Debbie Kanapilly, Quay County Farm Service Agency.
Kanapilly said FSA regulations require that to qualify an irrigated crop loss for benefits, it must occur when there is an adequate supply of water throughout the growing season, and the farmer must maintain good farming practices. Certifying the crop as irrigated but not having water available until spring may not be considered a good farming practice, she said.
Kanapilly said if the wheat were certified as a dry-land crop and there were a loss the farmer would be eligible for benefits. What is not certain is whether a farmer would qualify for benefits if the crop were certified as irrigated and there were no water allocations until spring.
Larry Young, Young Insurance, said, “From our standpoint, when (the crop is) planted, the insurance is attached to the crop, and for good farming practices, there must be adequate water available to the farmers that can be delivered timely.”
He said there must be a firm commitment from Arch Hurley about the amount of water each acre is going to have available in the spring, and there must be adequate water throughout the growing season in order to raise the crop to maturity.
Young said as long as that water is in the lake available for the farmers to call upon when needed during the spring there should be no problem.
Another district member, Donald Carter, however, said the district should release available water now.
Carter said the members have paid assessments for several years with no allocation of water, and now that it is available, members should be able to call on that water now if needed.
Perkins said if the water were released now, over half of it would be lost trying to get it through the system to the farmers.
“It would leave a low amount of water to be released in the spring if there was a decline of inflow,” Perkins said.
Carter said not releasing any water now means those with sprinklers will not know whether their systems are ready or in need of repair. He said Arch Hurley needs to make sure the irrigation system, including the ditches and laterals, is ready well in advance of the planned release in March.
Perkins said the district employees have been working to ensure that ditches and laterals will be ready for the March release.