WASHINGTON – The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today heard testimony about legislation U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici introduced to help meet eastern New Mexico’s future water needs.
The legislation, called the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System Authorization Act (S. 2814), authorizes the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to spend up to $327 million to assist with the construction of the pipeline that will carry water to several communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties. The water will come from the Ute Reservoir, which was built on the Canadian River in 1959 as a sustainable water supply for eastern New Mexico.
The state of New Mexico and the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority (ENMRWA), which represents communities in eastern New Mexico that will benefit from the pipeline, will contribute a total of 25 percent of the cost of construction. The Authority will be responsible for operating and maintaining the pipeline.
In its testimony, the Bush administration’s Bureau of Reclamation said it does not support the bill because of its cost.
“I am extremely disappointed that the Bush administration opposes this bill, but I’m not going to be deterred. Without a pipeline, eastern New Mexico’s future is at risk. Knowing this, I will continue working with Sen. Domenici and Rep. Udall to build support for this legislation and get it enacted into law,” said Bingaman, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and scheduled today’s hearing.
“We want sustained growth in the region’s communities, which can happen with assurances of reliable, long-term access to water. I believe authorization for this pipeline is an appropriate action Congress can take now in the interest of eastern New Mexico’s ongoing vitality. Despite the administration’s opposition, I will continue to push for this to be accomplished before I finish my time in the Senate,” said Domenici, who joined Bingaman in spearheading similar legislation in the past.
Communities that will be served by the pipeline include: Grady, Clovis, Melrose, Texico, Portales, Elida, Cannon Air Force Base, and other potential locations in Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties.
The New Mexico lawmakers introduced similar legislation in previous Congresses which allowed for congressional hearings that led to changes reflected in the version of the bill discussed at today’s hearing. Rep. Tom Udall introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives.
Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega traveled to Washington to testify in favor of the bill.
“After 40 years of research, planning and design, we are now ready to take the next big step towards making the Project a reality. If we fail to act, the result could mean significant losses to our existing economic base and lost opportunities for future economic development. Senate Bill 2814 represents the important next step toward addressing the overarching issue of water in the arid West and we look forward to working with Congress and the United States Bureau of Reclamation to secure its passage,” Ortega said.