By CNJ staff
TUCUMCARI — The New Mexico Finance Authority and the governing body of the Ute Water Project reached an agreement Wednesday for a $2 million grant to help fund the initial stages of the proposed project.
Much of the money will go toward engineering services, which include rounds of public meetings at towns and cities involved in the project, preliminary design, and special studies related to project feasibility, said Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority Project Manager Scott Verhines.
The board has also requested $1.7 million in the current legislative session to help continue engineering allocations.
The group approved Albuquerque engineering firm CH2M Hill as contractors for phase one of the project at Wednesday’s meeting. The proposed project would pipe water from Ute Lake to kitchen sinks and shower heads in Quay, Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega said dollars being spent now are part of the total cost of the project, estimated at upwards of $300 million. He said a recent tax and water-rate increase passed in Grady, and recent water-rate increases in Melrose and Texico are evidence the plan is moving forward and eastern New Mexico municipalities are serious about funding the project.
He hopes federal officials catch wind of that seriousness this year, as the longer the federal government waits to approve funding the more expensive the project becomes.
Officials hope the federal government funds 80 percent of the project, with the remaining 20 percent split between state and municipal dollars.
“Three or four years down the road and this is going to get away from us — we won’t be able to afford it,” Ortega said.
Clovis Mayor David Lansford was re-elected to serve another term as the group’s chairman. Ortega was elected vice chairman.