Santa Fe – Last night (Monday) HB 15 a bill to create the Eastern NM Water Utility Authority and provide the structure for distribution of water from Ute Reservoir in Quay County, passed the Senate with a vote of 35-0.
On February 4 it passed the House unanimously with a vote of 49-0.
It is one of the first bills the Legislature passed in the 2010 session.
This bill replaces the weak joint powers structure of the current water authority.
It enables the seven Eastern NM Rural Water System members to raise capital, more readily access federal and state funds and to efficiently manage the project across various political boundaries.
The legislation was introduced by Representative Anna Crook of District 64 (Curry) who also serves as the Republican Caucus Chair.
“The water table in the Ogallala aquifer is currently being depleted three feet a year. As we all know, we have no more groundwater left,” said Rep. Crook. “We must harness our share of the water from the Canadian River before it heads to Texas.”
Authorization of the project at the federal level for up to a 75% cost share was signed by the President on March 30, 2009.
The authority acts as a wholesaler, delivering potable water to member communities. Member communities will include Curry County, as well as Clovis, Portales, Texico, Melrose, Elida and Grady.
“The Eastern NM Rural Water System represents a model rural regional water supply project for the state,” said State Engineer John D'Antonio, “It is consistent with the goals of the statewide water plan. The creation of a
formal water utility authority that will serve as the entity to finance, construct, own and operate the facilities is a significant achievement and positions the system as 'construction ready' for the purposes of federal
The bill addresses concerns related to oversight that are consistent with other similar authorities.
It ensures eminent domain will be used only for right-of-way purposes, and not for acquisition of water rights.
It also assures compliance with Office of the State Engineer 40-year water planning policy and water rights acquisition statutes.
“This legislation is a tribute to the state's commitment to the preservation of our way of life. This project represents the future for our children and our grandchildren.” notes Senator Clint Harden of District 7 (Colfax, Curry, Harding, Quay, San Miguel, Taos, Union).
“It is a pleasure to work with Representative Crook and all the member communities. This is a major milestone for the project.” said Senator Stuart Ingle, District 27 (Chaves, Curry, DeBaca, Roosevelt).