By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
The Interstate Stream Commission has proposed a meeting in Albuquerque with those who are protesting its application seeking control of the water of the Canadian River and tributary sources including the Revuelto Creek below Ute Lake Reservoir.
The meeting should be held in Tucumcari where water rights are affected and not only be for those who are protesting the ISC proposal, but should be a meeting the entire public can attend, said Quay County Manager Richard Primrose.
Primrose said commissioners did receive an email from the ISC wanting to hold a meeting with protesters between Sept. 21-28 with a proposed location in Albuquerque.
The email was sent out on Monday by ISC Attorney Kim Bannerman.
Bannerman said usually the ISC would hold this type of meeting in the location of the water rights application, in this case Tucumcari. However, those who oppose the application are split between the eastern and western sides of the state. The ISC thought Albuquerque would split the travel time for everyone, Bannerman added.
Bannerman said no official meeting date or time has been set. She said the ISC is awaiting feedback from protesters before proceeding. The ISC application is still up for consideration.
Primrose said the commissioners want to provided the community with a advanced notice of specific ISC meeting proposal and giving the residents an opportunity to attend and share their input. He said there was no public advertisement prior to the ISC’s Aug. 18 meeting held at Tucumcari High School.
Primrose said there were no official minutes recorded at the meeting organized by state Sen. Pat Woods and state Rep. Dennis Roch. He said if Roch and Woods had not requested the meeting, the ISC may not have spoken with the public concerning its application.
The consensus conveyed at the meeting by residents and officials was for the ISC to withdraw its application for the control of the control of water in the Canadian River below the Ute Lake Reservoir dam.
Although at the beginning of the meeting, ISC Director Deborah Dixon made no obligation but to hear the concerns of the residents and officials at the meeting. She said the concerns and information would be reviewed and taken into consideration by the ISC.
Primrose said what the public, landowners and officials want is for the ISC to start the application process over and work with residents and landowners to develop a new application that addresses everyone’s needs.
This application directly affects the public, which is the landowners; any meeting should be held in Tucumcari, said Tom Sidwell, a Quay Valley rancher.
Sidwell said although his property is 40 miles from the Canadian River, the ISC application for control of tributary sources could include the surface runoff from his land that made its way eventually to the rivers. The ISC application would allow the commission to take control of the surface water on his land and could deny him the use of the water for future stock tanks or existing stock tanks for agricultural use.
“This would applyto any landowner in the Canadian River water shed,” Sidwell said. “If approved it would set a precedence with state wide implications for all land owners in a rivers water shed.”
At the meeting, Bannerman and ISC attorney Craig Roepke explained the reason for the application for the control of the water and how it was done to protect the interests and rights of the residents, communities and landowners along those waters.
Roepke said the application is vital to the ISC’s efforts to ensure its responsibility to provide water for the continued survival of the threatened Arkansas River shiner, which has a habitat south of the reservoir on the Canadian River. He said the ISC application for control of the water will allow them to designate seepage from the dam at Ute Reservoir as a strategic water reserve that is needed to ensure the continued survival of the threatened species and prevent a federal government declaration of a critical habitat.
Roepke said the ISC’s development of a Arkansas River shiner management plan includes the water reserve and will keep the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from designating a critical habitat along the Canadian River as it intended in 2001. He said if there was a critical habitat established, it could affect land use along that area and possibly result in the required release of 33 cubic feet of water per second at Ute Reservoir.
Bannerman said the application for the control of the tributary sources was made because studies show the spurts of runoff from those sources create a favorable spawning environment for the Arkansas River shiner. She said the original ISC application for control of the water was denied by the state engineer’s office although an amended application was submitted for a non-consumptive control of the water. This means their will be no acre feet taken from the Canadian River or the tributary sources and no points of diversion would be created along the water lines, Bannerman added.