Gov. Bill Richardson talks to Brian Condit, right, with legal and political affairs, and Caleb Chandler, center, of Clovis, after a press conference Wednesday at Clovis-Carver Public Library.
Clovis will get $800,000 from $10.5 million in federal money allocated for the southeastern and southern parts of the state, Gov. Bill Richardson announced Wednesday at a meeting in the Clovis-Carver Public Library.
Most of the money — $500,000 — will be used to help pay for improvements in the city’s storm drainage system, and $300,000 will go toward rehabilitation of low- to moderate-income housing, Mayor David Lansford said.
“We’re grateful for the governor’s gift. The funds are needed and we will add them to existing funds to repair the drainage system in the south of Clovis,” Lansford said.
“As for housing, the city of Clovis asked for Community Development Block Grant funds and didn’t get them this year, so we will definitely put these funds to good use,” he added.
Richardson introduced State Sen. Clinton D. Harden, R-Clovis, and State Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, and said they played an important role in identifying projects for which Clovis needed funds.
His appearance was part of a swing through the southeast part of New Mexico, where he also was scheduled to speak in Portales, Artesia, Ruidoso, Alamogordo, Tularosa, Las Cruces and Sunland Park.
In Portales, the governor announced he’s allocating $1 million to help fund the conversion of agriculture water wells to wells used to pump water to Portales homes.
Conversion of the city’s 17 agriculture wells will dramatically reduce strain on wells used to provide water for city residents. Those wells have continually pumped less water per minute over time, state and city officials said.
Richardson said most of the $10.5 million package is intended for water projects and introduced State Engineer John D’Antonio, who said the state is working to complete a state water plan by the end of the year. A public meeting on water is scheduled Aug. 6 in Clovis.
D’Antonio said the state is looking for water projects to fund and supports the Ute Lake water project being developed by the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority. The project is eligible for funds from the state’s Water Trust Fund, although it also will need significant federal money, he said.
Harden told D’Antonio that, just as much of eastern New Mexico is dependent on the Ogallala Aquifer for water, other states also are mining the aquifer. He asked if the administration is discussing the equable use of water in the aquifer with other states.
D’Antonio said the state will begin discussions on a water treaty with Texas within the next few weeks. The talks will cover Texas’ draw down of the Ogallala Aquifer, as well as surface water issues, he said.
The $10.5 million being distributed throughout southeastern New Mexico is part of $169 million allocated for New Mexico from a $20 billion state stimulus package obtained by governors during negotiations over the federal tax cuts passed by Congress earlier this year.
Richardson spokesman Billy Sparks said the governor played an important role in those negotiations as the Democratic Governors Association federal government liaison and a member of the Medicaid task force of the National Governors Association.
In the last two weeks, Richardson has taken criticism from several state legislators, who say he lacks the authority to distribute the money without the approval of the Legislature.
Richardson said he feels sure of his right to distribute the money as unanticipated federal funds for emergency use. He said the New Mexico Supreme Court has confirmed the governor’s right to distribute such funds.
Freedom Newspapers reporter Mike Linn contributed to this report.