Serving the High Plains

Official requests authority's help

PORTALES — A Tucumcari city commissioner requested help Tuesday from the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority.

At the end of the authority's meeting at Portales City Hall, Robert Lumpkin said he made the trip because Tucumcari and Quay County needed help resolving a pair of issues, and he figured the authority had more pull with the Interstate Streams Commission than he did.

He first said he was in full support of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System — a pipeline from Ute Reservoir to authority members in Curry and Roosevelt counties — but some protections needed to be in place for Tucumcari and Quay County, where the reservoir is located.

  • Lumpkin said the city and county were being required to hook up to an intake structure (pump station) the authority was building. But Lumpkin said that would be a cost of $6 million, and Quay County and Tucumcari are already working with another provider on a separate intake structure as part of development of the Ute Lake Ranch development.

The two intake structures would not interfere with each other, Lumpkin said, because they are miles apart — one of the reasons hooking up to the authority's structure would come at a high cost.

  • Lumpkin also requested the authority help establish a minimum elevation for the reservoir, built in the 1950s to create a sustainable water supply for eastern New Mexico.

Lumpkin asked for the long-promoted elevation of 3,765 feet, almost 12 feet below the reservoir's current level, and reduced pumping when the elevation nears that mark.

"It would always be there to protect the future of that reservoir," Lumpkin said, "and the future of the project."

Lumpkin had raised the same concerns during the authority's previous meeting, held Feb. 16 in Clovis.

Ute Dam Manager Kent Terry previously noted that the reservoir, due to the last few years of drought conditions, was at its lowest point since October 2010.

Since Jan. 1, the elevation has dropped 0.7 feet to 3,776.63 feet. The reservoir currently has 148,291 acre feet — or approximately 48.3 billion gallons.

Lumpkin's address was heard under the section of the meeting titled "For the Good of the Order," and no action was taken. If the authority is so inclined, it could create an agenda item and take action during its next meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. May 22 at Melrose City Hall.

In other business at the meeting:

  • Federal consultant John Ryan said things were moving at the federal level, after awards of $1 million from the Bureau of Reclamation and $2 million in President Obama's 2013 budget.

A Washington, D.C., trip is planned for April 16 to work with the New Mexico Congressional delegation about keeping momentum for the project.

Authority Chair Gayla Brumfield asked if there was any opportunity to acquire more funding through the process, but Ryan said with the election-year politics, "Our first priority is to make sure there aren't any adjustments to the $2 million."

  • Project manager Paul von Gulick said interest is high for the first phase of the intake facility construction. He noted that almost 40 pre-bid document packets have been distributed.

The bids will be unsealed 3 p.m. April 23 at Clovis City Hall.

  • Mark Murphy, formerly of the Interstate Streams Commission and a current water resources scientist, said a drought management plan is likely to have a first draft completed by the end of the week.

Following a one-week revision period, Murphy said an April 16 release of the plan.

The plan, funded by the Bureau of Reclamation, creates contingencies to protect water interests of all entities using Ute Reservoir.

  • Murphy received permission to apply for watershed base plan monies available from the New Mexico Environment Department. Von Gulick said whether any money is received, the application could still get a foot in the door for other funding avenues for the project.
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