Water authority approves finance plan

Freedom New Mexico: Jared Tucker Consultants, lawyers and board members prepare for the Eastern New Mexico Water Authority meeting Thursday at the Texico Fire Department. The board approved a finance plan for the $500 million Ute Lake water project.

Jared Tucker

The Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority approved a finance plan Thursday required to obtain federal money for the $500 million Ute Water project.

The seven-member board, representing communities across eastern New Mexico, also decided to buy excess water from private landowners.

The finance plan calls for issuing $15 million in water authority bonds in 2015, and another $14.3 million in 2017.

The plan was approved unanimously, and estimates the production cost of water being $2.80 per 1,000 gallons — currently water costs about 19 cents per 1,000 gallons to produce.

The plan calls for construction complete in 2018 with water flowing in 2019.

The authority decided it will try buying water from the agriculture community as a backstop for supplies while awaiting hookup to Ute Lake.

Upon recommendations from Scott Verhines, principal consultant with Occam Consulting Engineers, the board voted unanimously to advertise to buy water from private landowners to supply the pipeline until it’s connected to Ute Reservoir.

“It’s not to anybody’s benefit these days to go develop new wells in an aquifer that is having problems,” Verhines said. “It’s better to do something like this to tide us over for 10 years until the surface water supply from Ute Reservoir is delivered to its members.”

Verhines said the authority was approached by local farmers with the idea, and he believes it has merit.

Portales Mayor Sharon King — who recently said her city is self-sufficient in its water supply for the next 20 years — said there is a possibility of getting the city’s water cheaper than the current rate through the diversion option.

The authority also elected Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield as its chairwoman and King as the vice chairwoman.

John Ryan, government relations consultant told the board several Congressional meetings scheduled July 26-29 in Washington, D.C., should result in the authorization of $4 million in federal money, which will be combined with the $8 million on hand to begin phase one of the project — the intake structure at Ute Reservoir.

The board meets again Aug. 19 and King said the exact location will be announced.