Water purchase remains in limbo

By Alisa Boswell

STAFF WRITER

aboswell@pntonline.com

The Economic Development Tax Advisory Board agreed Thursday to recommend city commissioners move forward with purchasing 930 acres of water rights from a local landowner.

Although city commissioners met in a special executive session later Thursday, the emerged from the closed-door session without taking any action on the water rights matter. Mayor David Lansford confirmed it was discussed. The city commission is expected to consider and vote on EDTAB’s recommendation at its next meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 3.

EDTAB members had tabled their decision Tuesday and requested additional information on water volumes from the wells.

City Manager Joe Thomas and City Engineer Justin Howalt said the 10 wells on the property combined are capable of pumping 1,500 acre-feet per year, which is more than the 1,173 acre-feet per year allowed by the federal government for municipal and industrial purposes.

At a price of $2,000 per acre, the total cost for the water rights, plus 10 wells and piping and easements for future wells, would be $1.86 million.
Board members expressed concerns over the cost of the water, asking if city officials had looked at other water rights transactions to compare.

Thomas said the city had not researched other transactions but he had spoken to city officials in Hereford, Texas, which is considering purchasing water rights from a private landowner for $3,200 an acre. Residents will vote on the proposal in November.

Lansford also said after the meeting that an appraiser had appraised water rights near Clovis Community College as being worth $2,500 per acre.

The city is looking at purchasing the water to sell to Cannon Air Force Base to avoid any possibility of a water shortage on the military installation.

“I’m not overly enthusiastic about buying water rights at $2,000 per acre but we don’t have any options left,” said Gene Hendricks, industrial development specialist with the Clovis Industrial Development Corp.

“This isn’t the only parcel of water under the county, so we may have a lot more options,” countered Lee Malloy, commissioner for the Military Base Planning Commission.
City Commissioner Tom Martin said he was trying to see the issue from both sides.

“I think $2 million is pretty cheap as an insurance policy to keep Cannon because we all know what would happen to the city if we lost Cannon,” Martin said. “But at the same time, we have 40 years of water here.”

Lansford said later that the agreement with local landowner J.L. Wall came about when Lansford met with area farmers together to discuss Cannon’s concerns over future water shortages.

Lansford said he called the meeting after reading the Trinity Report, a water study the DOD did at Cannon.

He said one of the recommendations in the report suggested Cannon leasing water rights and land adjacent to the base.

“My appeal to the farmers was what can we do to preserve water or how can we provide them (CAFB) water?” Lansford said. “This is the only offer we’ve received. Strategically, it’s located in the best place.”

The 10 wells that the city would be purchasing the water rights to are located west of Clovis directly behind the off-base housing, Chavez West.

Lansford said Wall is also willing to sell 160 to 250 acres of surface rights as a separate transaction.

Board members agreed to move forward with recommending the city purchase the 930 acres of ground water rights, but decided more negotiations were needed concerning the land.