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AWSA ISC quarterly meeting held 041513 part 3

Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a multi-part series of articles on an Interstate Stream Commission staff quarterly meeting held at Western New Mexico University on Monday evening.

Jeff Riley a civil engineer, who is the chief of Design and Construction at the Phoenix Office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, continued the previous discussion on the diversion and storage proposals approved in the Interstate Stream Commission Tier-2 process.

He said potential storage sites have been identified and will be quantified.

He showed a rough schematic of a diversion structure that might be placed at the top of the Cliff-Gila Valley where the ends could be tied into rock cliff walls. "At this point the storage locations are not yet known."

Riley explained the diversion structure would need to handle a lot of different flows, with the intake having to be adjusted for 1 cfs to 350 cfs, so it would function during run-off events.

"The GBIC proposes using existing diversions, with conveyance by open channel being the least expensive," Riley said. "But we may need siphons into a pipeline, of a size to handle 350 cfs at four feet per second. The top surface would be 20-feet across and 8 feet wide at the bottom, dependent on slope for capture. There are countless options on conveyance, alignments, and a number of diversion options, including potential storage in Spar Canyon."

The current Reclamation work activities include evaluating the Tier-2 proposals; completed field work on other diversion locations; evaluating water conveyance and alignments; completed preliminary analyses of storage options; doing cost estimates; creating diversion structure configurations; and general geologic and geotech evaluations.

"We will quantify for the GBIC the underground storage and will identify cost estimate probabilities," Riley said. "The draft economic and diversion/storage reports are due next spring and the final reports July of 2014."

Rebecca Summers, Silver City resident, said studies have been done over past years. She asked if the Reclamation analyses would study the difference between the GBIC and Mangas reservoir proposals, presented by Deming,  and their loss to evaporation.

"We will analyze evaporation losses," Riley said. "There are trade-offs on all the proposals."

Sara Boyette said she was curious about the Mangas Reservoir land. "I presume it will be condemned land. Who would control the rights to recreation, and will water skis and jet skis be allowed? You are likely aware there are at least five birding sites in the area. Will you consider the economic impact on tourism and birding?"

Mary Reece, study manager for the New Mexico Unit, Central Arizona Project Program Development Division in the Phoenix office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, explained the multi-tiered evaluation process. "Reclamation is doing the appraisal level evaluation for the ISC. NEPA will happen after 2014 if a project is approved. If there will be recreational use of the reservoir, it will be noted on the appraisal level, but it will be further considered at the NEPA stage."

A resident on the Pleasanton Ditch asked if Reclamation "contacts us as property owners on our proposals so we can share our concerns?" Reece said Reclamation is doing the appraisal level at the behest of the ISC. "We have discussed getting back to the proposers."

A questioner asked if the appraisal level is dependent on historical data, and if climate change were being taken into account, including reduced precipitation.

"My intent at the end of the process is to determine what volumes are reasonable to expect for the reservoir," Riley replied. "At the NEPA level, they are required."

A previous questioner clarified the question. "If the four counties don't need the water, how can the ISC justify taking it?"

Interstate Stream Commission Gila Project Director Craig Roepke said he doesn't know if the ISC is going to divert water. "But there is a water deficit in southwest New Mexico, and an even larger water deficit in all of southern New Mexico."

M.H. "Dutch" Salmon of the Gila Conservation Coalition asked how big a pipeline would be required to carry 350 cfs and would it impact property owners.

Riley replied that there are conveyance issues with property owners. "With a carrying capacity of 7 to 8 acre-feet per second, it would require a pipe 6 ½ feet to 7 feet in diameter, with most of the pipe buried."

Allyson Siwik of the Gila Conservation Coalition asked Roepke to address the Pleasanton Ditch folks on the issues and analyses. "We talked about it in the Input Group."

Roepke said people had tried to contact the Pleasanton Ditch representatives this past weekend. He asked for them to make sure ISC staff had their contact information.

Jeff Boyd, meeting participant, said he heard Roepke say the area has a water shortage of 30,000 acre-feet. "We're looking at 14,000 acre-feet a year, with the evaporation we're down to about 10,000 acre-feet, so then why are we looking at this drop in the bucket at considerable cost? And can you share the draft of the appraisal?" he asked Riley.

"It is still in progress, and we don't have a narrative," Riley said. "Reclamation is doing our part as quickly as we can, then it is up to the ISC whether they are ready to release it."

Todd Schulke of the Center for Biological Diversity said he had two technical questions. "Did you have similar Consumptive Use and Forbearance Agreement issues with the Mangas site as you originally had with the Mogollon Creek site? The potential diversion, storage and conveyance considerations don't match the proposals. How are you choosing to analyze what you are doing? Catron County said it wants no water now, but maybe later."

Riley said Catron County is not in the study at present. A number of diversion points are being studied on the way to the Mangas. "If we find other tributaries where there may be storage potential, the information will be in the report. We will make no recommendation."

Schulke asked if Reclamation would look at the Deming proposal of horizontal wells.

"It would be vertical wells to take into the Mangas project," Riley said. "Any additional water would be gravity-flow. Even infiltration galleries are gravity-fed, but I have doubts whether they are cost-effective."

"We are people who live in the community," an audience member said. "We are concerned that our way of life and culture will be wrested from us by big ag or big government. Who is speaking for us, the environment, and the uncertain future of global warming? How are you looking at the priorities of conserving water and using as little water as possible? Tell us how you are going to help us maintain our lives here."

The audience of about 100 people, many of whom have in the past and at the meeting, expressed concerns about diversion and storage, erupted in applause.

Another questioner said she had gone to the Forest Service office in the Mimbres, where she was told water could not be guaranteed for wilderness hikers. "I live along Duck Creek, which used to be two to three feet deep all year, now it's gone underground by May. What guarantee is there that there will be snowpack. How can you guarantee water there in five to 10 years?"

Mary Burton Riseley, Gila Valley resident, asked if, in the cost benefit issues, if lawsuits are being included.

Reece said they are not part of the appraisal analyses. Evans said endangered species could shut any project down.

Starr Belsky, Silver City small-business owner, said that, as a former regulator, she understands working with models, but "are you so constrained to include short-, medium- and long-term issues before you consider approving a project. Can the models not include the costs?"

"We're following internal guidance," Reece said. "New information and regulations are coming down the pike. We can acknowledge addressing them."  

Belsky said she would post on the comment section of nnawsa.org.  She asked if the potential for lawsuits and the short-term life of any project because of climate change were being considered.

Evans said they were all factored in with the NEPA process—U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Freedom of Information Act, decisions and lawsuits.

Walter "Ski" Szymanski, Silver City resident, said Mr. Roepke had mentioned that New Mexico was over-allocated for water. "Will New Mexico pay up front for exchange costs if there is not enough water in the Colorado? We build a pipeline, but there's no water to purchase, will the costs provide for Arizona senior water users?"

"What happens if it is so dry on the Colorado River that Arizona has no water?" Roepke repeated. "New Mexico has the senior priority on water in the Central Arizona Project. New Mexico could make a call on that water. It is less than 1 percent of the CAP water, but it is something we worked hard to protect."

A commenter said with the paucity of water, why is the Tyrone pipeline not being considered to Deming, so no big mistake is made.

The next article will feature a presentation by hydrologist Deborah Hathaway of S.S. Papadopolus and Associates, consultants creating model to compare water flows with and without CUFA withdrawals.

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