Ute water authority bill heads to governor’s desk

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

A bill to revamp the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority got to Gov. Bill Richardson’s desk without springing any leaks.

House Bill 15 passed the House and Senate on unanimous votes, and will move the authority from a joint powers agreement to a utility authority in June.

Gov. Bill Richardson has 20 days from Thursday to either sign the bill, veto it or issue a pocket veto by taking no action.

Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for Richardson, said it is policy not to comment on any pending legislation.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield, who chairs the authority, said she has no doubt Richardson will sign the bill into law.

“We feel very comfortable he will sign it,” Brumfield said. “He knows this is critical for the eastern side of the state.”

The authority is responsible for the creation and management of the Ute Water Project.

The project calls for a a pipeline moving water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to eight authority members — Clovis, Portales, Texico, Elida, Grady, Melrose and Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Utility authority status would allow the ENMRWA to sue and be sued, issue revenue bonds and use eminent domain for right-of-way issues, among other provisions.

Officials are now securing funding for the project, and hope to break ground by 2011.

Being an authority, Brumfield said, should help command more influence when seeking appropriations than the previous joint powers agreement structure.

“It didn’t really have a lot of teeth in it,” Brumfield said. “It wasn’t a structured entity to be the vehicle to move this project forward.”

Brumfield said it was a positive sign that the bill, introduced by Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, went through the House, the Senate, the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, the House Judicial Committee, the Senate Conservation Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee and received unanimous votes in each.