Ute Lake concerns resurface

Robin Fornoff

Tucumcari and Quay County’s worries about the future of Ute Lake bubbled to the surface again Thursday at an Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority meeting.

Tucumcari City Commissioner Robert Lumpkin said he thought during a committee meeting in January, the authority had agreed it would maintain a minimum of 3,765 feet of water in lake when diverting it to communities such as Clovis and Portales.

Lumpkin questioned why that level wasn’t specified in a preliminary draft of the authority’s drought management plan.

Clovis Mayor and authority Chairman Gayla Brumfield said while the authority was in agreement it would try to maintain the 3,765 level, no such promises of establishing a minimum level were made at any meeting.

“I would like you to consider 3,765 as a minimum pool level,” said Lumpkin. “That’s the last body of water in the immediate Southwest that is useable. Everything else is down. It’s a jewel.”

The authority has been a source of contention in Quay County, particularly for communities such as Logan, where Ute Lake has become a source of recreation revenue. Lumpkin said more than 300 people — business owners and employees — depend on the recreation money generated by use of the lake.

Authority member Darrell Bostwick said while he was sympathetic with Lumpkin’s concerns, the Interstate Stream Commission is on record that it would not approve such a minimum pool level at Ute Lake Reservoir.

“I think we’re all in agreement on exactly what you’re saying,” said Brumfield. “But we can only do what the ISC will approve.”

Bunny Terry, a Realtor and resident of Logan representing the chamber of commerce, echoed Lumpkin’s concerns. Both said the drought and the future prospect of diverting the lake to supply drinking water to communities in Curry and Roosevelt County is creating problems in the Quay County real estate market.

Homeowners are afraid, said Lumpkin, the lake will be drained.

Brumfield said it benefited no one to hurt the lake. She noted many residents of Clovis and Portales vacation at the lake and use it for recreation.

“We don’t want to drain that lake,” said Brumfield. “That doesn’t benefit anyone.”

At the same time, Brumfield said, “We have to provide water for our citizens.”