More than 75 area residents attended Thursday’s special meeting of the Arch Hurley Conservancy District.
The 65 seats for visitors set up inside the meeting room of Arch Hurley, located at 101 East High St., were filled an hour before the 1 p.m. meeting.
“It was an overwhelming public response,” said Franklin McCasland, Arch Hurley manager.
The subject of the day was the water shortage in Conchas Lake.
With the low water levels, water could not be let out of the lake to the conservancy members, McCasland said.
“We have never gone this long without being able to provide water to the conservancy,” said Gary Cordova of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Cordova said one of the main purposes of the core is to release water when it is called for.
“We have been unable to answer that call,” Cordova said. “Unless 10 feet or more flow into the lake, it is not worth opening the gate.”
Attendees discussed the question of proven water rights and possible illegal diversion from the Canadian River and its tributaries.
McCasland said state oversight on the area was being requested.
The diversion of the Mora River was discussed as well.
Many of the questions were directed to Tim Farmer, District 7 manager for the Office of the State Engineer.
Farmer said the water rights in that area are senior to the Arch Hurley’s water rights, meaning they have higher priority to receive water in a shortage.
Farmer also said the diversions that have formed large ponds and lakes are legal.
However, he did say no metering system is in place to determine if over diversion has occurred.
“We have been seeking state oversight in the amount of water being diverted,” McCasland said.
State Engineer John D’Antonio said in an earlier interview that establishing a water master in the Mora area is a priority. He said with a monitoring system in place, water levels could be verified and there would be an equal distribution of water.
Farmer said at this time, it is not in the state’s budget to hire a water master for that area. He said it may take some time before a metering system could be set in place.
“Our district is in dire need,” said Larry Perkins, Arch Hurley board president. “We cannot wait two to three years. We cannot afford to wait one year.”
Perkins said area agriculture producers are barely getting by. He said something has to be done now to provide water to the growers.
“This is the longest drought period that the conservancy has gone through, starting in 2002,” McCasland said.
McCasland said in 2002, only 3 acre-inches, or about 81,500 gallons, of water were allocated, followed by no allocations in 2003 and 2004.
In 2009 there were no allocations made to area growers, and predictions indicate that 2010 may be another year without water allocation.
Further documentation from Tim Farmer will be available at www.archhurley.com