Governor backs Ute Water project

Staff and wire reports

Gov. Bill Richardson’s 2007 legislative agenda for the “Year of Water” includes $5 million for the Ute Water Project that will serve communities throughout Curry and Roosevelt counties.

The governor included the investment in a $103.5 million spending plan he outlined Wednesday for projects and programs he says would move the state closer to a “sustainable water future.”

Legislative approval will be required for the projects for western, eastern and southern regions of the state.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford and Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega were invited to participate in the news conference in Santa Fe. Lansford is chairman and Ortega is vice chairman of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority, which is pushing for the project that would pipe drinking water from Ute Lake in Logan to the Clovis and Portales area.

Ortega said he thanked the governor for his commitment to the Ute water project.
With the estimated cost of the 90-mile pipeline at $400 million, Ortega said people might wonder “what can $5 million do?” He said, “It can help us in a lot of ways,” most importantly by demonstrating the state of New Mexico’s commitment to the project.

“They believe in it and it’s the right thing for eastern New Mexico,” Ortega said. It can “demonstrate to our congressional delegation and Congress that the state of New Mexico believes in the project and they are doing their part to contribute to it.”
Oretga added that the “dollars will be used wisely.”

“We need Congress’s help to make this project happen,” he said, citing the 75-percent cost share with the federal government.

Other proposals the governor announced include $25 million for the Water Trust Fund to provide a permanent source of revenue for water infrastructure in cities and towns.