Vote on Ute Water Project funding delayed

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Federal and area officials have to wait another day to find out the fate of a bill that would help pay for the Ute Water Project.

The U.S. House ran out of time Tuesday before it could vote on an authorization bill for the $437 million project, according to Sam Simon a spokesman for Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Simon said the bill did not meet opposition when the House deliberated it.

The House should vote on the bill today, Simon said.

Local officials were optimistic Monday the bill would pass the House and Senate floors with little opposition or modification and make its way to the president’s desk, who they hope will sign the bill.

Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority Chairman David Lansford said no bill regarding the Ute Water Project had made it out of a committee until this year.

“It’s been moving rapidly through the House, through two committees now and then making its way to the full floor and it’s our understanding that it should receive some very positive support and we’re anticipating and hoping it passes the House,” Lansford said Monday.

The bill would authorize federal funding of about $327 million to help pay for a pipeline that would pump water from the Ute Lake Reservoir to eight New Mexico entities.

The bill authorizes the federal government to pay for 75 percent of the project over 10 years. State and local governments will pay 15 percent and 10 percent of the project respectively.

Lansford said Monday if the bill fails in Congress it would not stop the project.

“If either bill fails then we will restart the process,” he said. “It’s a fact in my mind that this project is imperative and so one way or the other, the eastern New Mexico communities who are depending on this project are going to continue to be asking for assistance.”