A Ute Reservoir Advisory Group meeting Friday ended with no decision because of differences over 25 feet of water.
The group, which is made up of members from the Ute Water Commission and the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority, met at the Tucumcari Convention Center. Their goal was to develop a comprehensive drought management plan and discuss water supply management at Ute Lake.
“The drought plan that we develop will help to curb the usage as drought conditions begin to set in,” said Greg Gates, of CH2M Hill Engineering of Albuquerque. “It would allow the different agencies drawing water from the Ute Reservoir to share in the hardships in the event of a drought.”
A drought plan strategy will protect the surface level of the lake, said Mark Murphy, Canadian River Basin Manager, Interstate Stream Commission.
All of this planning is early preparation for the Ute Lake Pipeline project, which was approved by Congress in March.
However, the meeting ended in a stalemate when UWC and ISC members began to argue about base lake elevations.
Logan Village manager, Larry Wallin, disagreed with Murphy about a minimum elevation for the lake.
Wallin’s argument focused on a previous vote and approval by the UWC to set the minimum elevation at 3,765 feet.
“How can we make any plans or strategy when the ISC keeps moving the mark,” Wallin said.
“The ISC will not give a minimum pool level – that is off the table,” Murphy said. “The ISC makes the UWC’s decision to mark 3,765 feet as a minimum pool level invalid.”
Wallin said that the 3,765 foot elevation mark would be the maximum that the ENRWA could draw down the lake for drinking water.
“That elevation protects us by leaving a pool of five foot above the old spillway,” Wallin said. “At that level we can maintain the fish habitat and continue recreational use.”
The data proposed by Gates showed yield percentages and flows for water taken out of the reservoir to an elevation of 3,741feet.
The elevation of Ute Lake with the spillway is 3,787 feet and the flood stage is 3,806 feet.
Wallin said that the current elevation of the lake is 3,783 feet, which equals 187,000 acre feet of water.
An acre-foot of water is equal to 325,851 gallons of water, the pool level of 3,765 feet would amount to 130,000 acre feet of water being available.
If the mark is lowered to the 3,741 feet, the lake elevation would drop by 42 feet and leave 50,000 acre-feet in the lake, Wallin said.
“At that elevation we would no longer be calling it Ute Lake. We would call it Ute Ponds,” Wallin said.
Wallin said that a previous study showed that a minimum pool level of 3,765 feet would provide the requested 24,000 acre feet of water 93 years over a 100-year time span.
Gates disagreed with Wallin’s assessment and said that demand had not been taken into consideration.
Wallin requested Gates recalculate his numbers using the suggested 3,765 mark and present that data to the UWC at their next meeting in Clovis, which was unscheduled at press time.