By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The Arch Hurley Conservancy District’s board on Tuesday decided to authorize spring allocations of water for the first time in three years.
Franklin McCasland, district manager, said the district’s ditches will be ready to receive water on March 1, but allocations will begin when the district receives orders totaling 50 acre feet from its members. That could be some time in April or May, he said.
For three years, drought conditions have kept Conchas Lake’s level below the elevation at which allocations to Arch Hurley customers would be allowed . Conchas Lake is the district’s source of irrigation water.
Currently the elevation of Conchas Lake is 4,179.07 feet above sea level, McCasland said. A year ago, the elevation was at 4155.7 feet, about 23 feet lower.
In late summer and early fall, a series of storms in Eastern New Mexico dumped 4 to 5 inches on some parts of Quay and San Miguel counties, raising the level of Conchas Lake more than 20 feet.
The Arch Hurley board acknowledged there was enough water in the lake in September, but voted not to release water then in favor of a spring release for crops. District members told the board at that time there was enough water in the ground from rainfall now to start a wheat crop and have it take hold and urged the board to delay the release until spring.
McCasland said the lake’s current elevation makes a little more than 72,000 acre feet available for allocation. About 50 percent of that amount would be released this spring he said, that’s about 36,157 acre feet. An acre-foot of water, about 325,900 gallons, is enough water to cover an acre of ground to a depth of one foot.
McCasland said that spread across the district’s 42,000 acres of farmland, the first allocation will make about 10.3 inches of water available for each acre.
Phillip Box, an Arch Hurley board member, said that would mean there will be about 9 inches per acre for district members, taking into account evaporation loss.
Box said that to receive water for the spring release, Arch Hurley members must have current Rural Recreation Act (RRA) forms on file, and must have paid the first half of their yearly assessment for water.
He said the second allocation may come around July 1, if the lake level allows it.
McCasland said the district is still seeking funds for projects that would reduce the 50-percent loss that Arch Hurley’s water channels experience due to evaporation and seepage along the open-air irrigation canals.
The board approved an application for a federal Bureau of Reclamation Water Conservation Field Service Program grant of $100,000, with a 50-percent in kind match, for eradication of water-robbing salt cedar and cottonwood trees along the canal. Also approved was an application for a Bureau of Reclamation “Water Smart” grant to install closed pipelines along three lateral channels to prevent loss from evaporation.
McCasland said these two grants would increase the district’s water delivery efficiency.
Other items before the board:
• Capital outlay funding requests totaling $350,000 to the New Mexico Legislature.
• Representatives from Federal Emergency Management Agency will visit the district in February to review $65,000 of repairs to the district’s system in San Miguel County from last summer’s storms.
• The board approved a an agreement with Skip Vernon to end litigation. The agreement allows Vernon to pump three acre feet of water from the Arch Hurley canal system during irrigation season only if he purchases 30 acre feet of water from an upstream source. The board noted that the water pumped by Vernon would not be Arch Hurley water, and he would only be allowed to pump water from the canal that was collected after the gates at Conchas Lake were closed.
• The board was notified they did not receive the Historic Preservation Grant from the state to repair the electrical system and roof of the Arch Hurley Office in Tucumcari.
• The board reviewed information about drainage and seepage in the canal presented by Jeanne O’Dean, a guest of the meeting.