Injunctions costly for Ute project

By Kevin Wilson

CNJ STAFF WRITER

kwilson@cnjonline.com

During an hour-long meeting Wednesday morning, members of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority looked at the next step for the pipeline project, while briefly bemoaning some of the delays in current steps.

The authority agreed to a few contractual matters on the construction of the intake structure, or pumping station, that will be located at the Ute Reservoir in Quay County. The structure will be the main mechanism that will pump water from the reservoir to authority members in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

The biggest expense came from contract increases of about $496,000, mostly resulting from delays forced by injunctions filed against the project by the Village of Logan and a group of entities called the Tucumcari/Quay County Regional Water Authority.

Eastern New Mexico Water Authority chair Gayla Brumfield credited consultants working with the authority for the work, and noted that the amount was negotiated down from nearly $700,000.

“It’s easy when you have this big of a project,” Brumfield said of the costs. “You’ve got penalties (in contracts). All of the equipment was out there. They had to move it off site, then had to bring it back.”

In other business at the meeting:

• The authority agreed to use capital outlay money, and some of its own, in agreements with ASI Dam and Water Contractors and Farmers Electric Cooperative Inc. for the intake structure.

A pair of deals, totaling $101,116, will set up electricity for the structure. The authority will use $100,000 in capital outlay from 2011 marked specifically for that purpose.

• State consultant Joe Thompson said he was looking for a portion of phase of the $500 million project that could attract capital outlay from the state legislators. He and Project Manager Paul van Gulick said they would bring back more information during the November meeting, and Thompson said it was positive that legislators see the project as an ongoing commitment and not a one- or two-year matter.

Brumfield said she felt the best direction to go would be in design for the interim pipeline, which would deliver water purchased from area farmers.

Thompson said he was also making efforts to receive consideration from the office of Gov. Martinez. Each session, Thompson explained, capital outlay money is divided evenly between the House of Representatives, the Senate and the governor’s office.

• Federal consultant John Ryan said he has had positive meetings with the Bureau of Reclamation about the project, but it’s tough to get a clear picture on future funding because of the recent government shutdown and a continuing resolution that runs through January.

“Without knowing what’s going to happen,” Ryan said, “and nobody knows what’s going to happen, we’re at the behest of whatever agreement they come up with.”

He does believe federal funding of the project is on an upward slope, and the project is moving up the priority list as other rural water projects are either completed or abandoned.

Authority member Caleb Chandler said there is also a possibility of money for the pipeline project as a military construction project with Cannon Air Force Base.

“They understand the mission depends on water supply, We have a very good mission here.”

Brumfield noted that officials from Cannon were scheduled to take a bus tour of the intake structure on Friday.

• The next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 20 in Portales. The meeting was moved from the tentative date of Nov. 21 because of a conflict with the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute conference scheduled in Albuquerque.