President signs bill authorizing Ute Water Project

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Chase Gentry hopes he won’t have to knock on wood as much anymore when he tells businesses about Eastern New Mexico’s long-term water outlook.

That’s based on Monday’s news that President Barack Obama signed a public lands omnibus bill Monday containing authorization for the Ute Water Project.

The project, which would bring water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County, was the negotiating chip Gentry — executive director of Clovis Industrial Development Corp. — would use regarding future water supply. But it wasn’t the strongest chip possible, with the project long-studied and never authorized.

“It does strengthen our case,” Gentry said. “When we say it is coming, they can see something’s in action.”

The omnibus bill includes more than 160 projects and several water measures for the state.

“This new law is very good for New Mexico,” said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., in a press release. “It is one of the most important bills we’ve been able to enact in recent years to tackle water issues in our state.”

Bingaman serves as the chairman of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee and wrote the omnibus bill.