By Emily Crowe
CMI STAFF WRITER
While some of the estimated 40 residents who attended a town hall meeting Tuesday expressed concern about funding for the Ute Water Project, top officials behind the plan were optimistic it will happen.
Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority Chair Gayla Brumfield said construction is currently underway on the first section of the intake structure.
“At the end of this, we’ll have all of the basic work done at the site to be able to install wells,” explained project manager Paul van Gulick.
Brumfield said phase two of the project will provide construction of an interim pipeline, which will run from northern Curry County, west of Cannon Air Force Base, and toward Portales and Elida.
Several residents expressed concern over whether there would be sufficient money to fund the project in the long-term, as well as how much the pipeline would deplete water levels at Ute Lake.
According to van Gulick, the Interstate Stream Commission, which controls the reservoir, will allow up to 16,450 acre feet of water per year to be pulled from the lake.
“The current demand among all the members is about 12,000 acre feet per year,” he explained. “So right now today, we wouldn’t be using that. It allows a measure of growth over the lifetime of the project.”
Once fully completed, the project is expected to pump water from the Ute Reservoir in Quay County to the member entities of Clovis, Portales, Elida, Texico, Grady, Melrose and Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Funding for much of the project comes from the Bureau of Reclamation, and Brumfield explained that funding from the federal government is starting to come in.
“The state has really stepped up to the plate and has been funding this project, over $30 million to date,” she said. “We’ve had about $3 million from the federal government.”
The total cost for the intake structure is $14 million, and the interim pipeline is expected to cost $88 million, according to van Gulick. The project’s total estimated cost is more than $550 million, with 75 percent expected from federal funding.
“We’re going to work on the interim pipeline, which is about an $80 million project,” Brumfield said. “We’re looking at $10 million a year for that. That’s going to take about eight years to put that in. In the meantime, we’ll continue getting money from the state and maybe some other entities with the federal government.”