Chairman touts Ute water project

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Former Clovis Mayor David Lansford told city commissioners that a project proposing to build a pipeline from the Ute Reservoir to eight eastern New Mexico entities needs to be constructed, with or without federal funding.

Lansford, the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority Chairman, was responding to a question from Commissioner Len Vohs about doubts the federal government will fund the project because of the current economic condition.

“It’s gotta get built,” Lansford said at a study session following Thursday’s Clovis City Commission meeting. “Because the ground water reserves we have are not going to be adequate, no matter how you look at it, x-number of years from now.”

Program Manager Scott Verhines said the pipeline would reduce dependence on the Ogallala aquifer, which he said is declining at a rate of two-and-a-half feet a year and recharging at about a half-inch a year. He said the project will also create a sustainable water supply for residential and industrial use.

“ Everybody draws from the same resource right now,” Verhines said. “This will reduce, in significant measure, the competition for this resource.”
Lansford said he will testify about the need for the project before the U.S. House Power and Water Committee next week.

He said he is optimistic the project will receive federal funding.

“I can’t think of a better way for the government to spend its money than on a project like this,” he said.

If federal legislation authorizing the project is passed, Financial Consultant Kevin Powers said the cost of the $432 million project will be split between the government (75 percent), the state (15 percent) and the authority’s members (10 percent).

Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said project officials need to keep in mind that Texas, who receives water from the reservoir, might oppose the project.

Project Program Manager Scott Verhines said a United States Supreme Court Decision gives New Mexico rights to the water.
“The reason the Ute reservoir was built was so New Mexico can store its water for this kind of project,” he said.