Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Water, economic issues discussed with Udall reps


February 10, 2015

Bianca Wertheim, left, of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s staff, talks with Tucumcari Mayor Robert Lumpkin and City Manager Jared Langenegger at Tucumcari City Hall.

link Bianca Wertheim, left, of U.S. Sen. Tom

Udall’s staff, talks with Tucumcari Mayor

Robert Lumpkin and City Manager Jared

Langenegger at Tucumcari City Hall.

By Steve Hansen

QCS Managing Editor

The proposed Ute Lake pipeline to Roosevelt and Curry countites and economic development were two main topics in an unplanned conversation Jan. 3 between Tucumcari and Quay County leaders and members of U.S. Sen. Tom Udall’s staff.

Tucumcari Mayor Robert Lumpkin, City Manager Jared Langenegger and Quay Commissioner Sue Dowell participated in the unplanned conversation with Udall staff members Bianca Wertheim and David Williams.

Lumpkin presented figures he said show that if the Ute Lake pipeline had been operating from 2001 to 2014, there would have been times when the lake was drained. In many of those years, his figures show, the lake’s level would have been too low to allow the pipeline to draw any water from the lake.

Lumpkin said his numbers demonstrate a need for a new study of the lake’s ability to yield enough water to allow up to 24,000 acre-feet to be removed by the Ute Lake Pipeline.

The Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, which is building the pipeline, continues to rely on a yield study conducted in 1994, which authority officials say accommodates the effect of the recent drought years.

The pipeline, Lumpkin said, threatens to damage Ute Lake’s recreational value, which accounts for as many as 400 jobs in the county, he said.

Langenegger, former manager of New Mexico State Parks’ Northeast Division, said the parks department is conducting studies now to determine total economic benefits of Ute Lake State Park and other state parks to surrounding areas.

Dowell talked about a need for economic development.

“We have a dire need for economic development,” she said. “We have a diamond in the rough with highways and plentiful water. We need to reinforce that and bring opportunity to this area.”

Dowell said economic development funds tend to crowd around metropolitan areas.

“Some of the best people and our best values are in rural areas,” she said. “We need a champion.

We have too many buildings that are boarded up. We need help.”

The area needs more “mid-level” jobs, between entry-level positions and executive positions, especially in the private sector, she said. Such opportunities, she said, are currently limited to the schools, government and the Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital.

Wertheim said Sen. Udall is looking to fund solutions for problems common to all of the rural U.S.

Lumpkin talked about the proposed Tucumcari racetrack and casino, or “racino,” that has snagged on stalled efforts to allow a sixth racino license in the state.

He also talked about pursuing U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grants that could help economic development.

Williams suggested contact with the New Mexico delegation office in Washington, D.C., where Kristine Dietz, the head officer, coordinates federal grant applications for New Mexico communities.

Langenegger talked about the city’s plan to donate property to help businesses start or expand in Tucumcari and said infrastructure investment is another key to economic development.

Langenegger also said it is difficult to find help to tear down abandoned buildings. Liens don’t help, he said, because many properties don’t sell.

In other matters:

• Dowell criticized state rules that keep counties from setting speed limits on county roads without red tape and state approval. Langenegger said rules that require “narrowbanding” place unnecessary limits on the ability of emergency response agencies to communicate in rural areas, and result in more equipment costs to accommodate narrowbanding’s limits on broadcasting range.

• Langenegger said stricter water pollution control regulations will make more storage ponds and water lines necessary to achieve 100 percent use of reclaimed water.


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