Quay wavers on pipeline project

By Tony Parra: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES —The Ute Water pipeline project is in danger of losing another partner.

Quay County Manager Terry Turner on Wednesday said the county more than likely will opt out of the project. Turner said county commissioners have been discussing the exit of the project.

“Quay County has seen a decline in its tax-base revenue and population,” Turner said at Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority. “Quay County decided to lease 750 acre-feet (from Ute Lake) to the Ute Lake Ranch development; developers from Colorado.”

Turner said with only 250-acre feet left from its 1,000-acre feet allotment the county more than likely will not want to pay to have water pumped from Ute Lake. Turner said a definite decision will not be reached until June 24.

Logan and San Jon have already dropped out of the proposed $300 million project, which would pump water from Ute Lake to communities in eastern New Mexico.

The project at one time had 12 government entities involved.

The water authority plan calls for the federal government to fund 80 percent of the project cost and New Mexico and ENMRWA 10 percent each.

Clovis would pay $11.6 million and Portales $4.6 million under the plan.

At last month’s meeting, Tucumcari officials said they wanted to reduce their projected water needs by two-thirds.

Since Tucumcari would reduce the water needed to be pumped into its community from 6,000 acre-feet to 2,000 acre-feet per year then Tucumcari officials want the cost to correspond. Tucumcari’s financial responsibility would go from $5.63 million to $1.87 million.

“We need some mechanism that will reduce the cost if the participation is reduced,” Tucumcari City Manager Richard Primrose said at Wednesday’s meeting. “If we’re obligated to pay one-fourth of the pipeline, it wouldn’t be financially feasible.”

Ute Project Manager Scott Verhines said he needs to get written commitments from ENMRWA members.

So far, Verhines said he has received letters of commitment to the project from only Clovis and Portales. Requests for the letters were sent out in 2004.

“I feel this (Quay possibly leaving the group) is a positive,” Portales Mayor and ENMRWA Vice Chairman Orlando Ortega said. “Some communities are realizing they can’t afford the project. We (ENMRWA members) want to be honest with each other. We need to support each other in our decisions.”