Serving the High Plains

Arch Hurley board allocates 2 inches

The Arch Hurley Conservancy District board of directors unanimously voted last Tuesday to allocate 2 inches of water per acre for area farmers for the coming growing season.

On a day it rained during the board’s meeting, members were reluctant to allocate more water to its irrigation canals due to meager inflow to Conchas Lake so far this year.

District manager Franklin McCasland reported the lake’s elevation that morning at 4,172.19 feet, which was about one-third of a foot higher than the previous month.

He reported the lake received 2,361 acre-feet of inflow in March, with 2,142 acre-feet of evaporation and other losses.

A year ago, the lake’s level stood at just 4,162.4 feet, but a huge storm in late May would add almost 10 feet.

Board Chairman Robert Lopez said early in the meeting he would be “comfortable” allocating 2 inches per acre and asked for opinions from fellow board members.

Board member Larry Perkins said the board “needs to be conservative” with its resources, but he felt the need to make water available for constituents. He said he agreed with the 2-inch allocation, but added there would be “no guarantee” of a full-season run in the canals.

Board member John Griffiths said he would vote for the 2-inch allocation but also was inclined to let the water stay in the lake.

“If we only have 2 inches, it’s not going to last very long,” he said.

Board member Debra Mitchell said she would vote on a 2-inch allocation, but reluctantly

“I feel it’s very wasteful to allocate water,” she said. “It’s not a good use of the water we have.”

A total of 17 farmers and ranchers crowded into the board room. When Lopez asked for opinions from them, the vast majority preferred some sort of water allocation.

One exception was Dale Mitchell of rural Tucumcari, who said he wanted to let the water stay in Conchas Lake.

He also questioned whether there even would be 2 inches of water available because weather forecasters are predicting a hot, dry and windy summer.

Several farmers, said the district needs to apply for grants to lay concrete pipe in the canals and improve the system’s efficiency.

McCasland estimated during an earlier meeting its canals lose up to 80% of its water due to absorption and evaporation.

Lopez agreed a pipeline from Conchas Lake would conserve more water during allocations, but he added it would be hugely expensive even with small funding matches required by the district.

“You’re looking at hundreds of dollars per acre for assessments,” he said.

“Thousands,” Dale Mitchell said.

Another farmer asked whether the district could use diesel-powered pumps to remove more water from the lake into the canals. Perkins said the last time the district did that was in the late 1970s, and it cost at least $70,000 in fuel.

The board last July allocated 3 inches of water per acre — its first allocation in more than three years because of drought.

In other business, the board voted to budget about $40,000 to hire a grant writer for several small projects.

McCasland said such a writer would be paid 50 cents to $1 an acre to write a grant application and manage it once the funds are received. The board likely will review bids from prospective writers at its May meeting.