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GSFWC meeting 041613, part 2

Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a three-part series on the Gila/San Francisco Water Commission meeting on Tuesday, April 16.

After hearing a report from S.S. Papadopolus & Associates' hydrologist Deborah Hathaway, members of the Gila/San Francisco Water Commission moved to the issue of resolutions tabled or not completed from the March meeting.

Richard McInturff of the city of Deming said the resolution to support the Deming diversion proposal, at the last meeting, was the wrong version and the item was not listed correctly on the agenda. "You have the amended resolution. This is the second attempt. It is the same format as the one adopted by Hidalgo County."

"The actual proposal is conceptual food for thought, even though it goes into some detail," McInturff said. We're not married to the Mogollon and Mangas storages. We think that is better left to the Bureau of Reclamation and the Interstate Stream Commission.

"We feel the project would be of benefit to citizens of the four counties," he continued.

GSFWC Chairman Tom Bates said he had heard several questions about costs.

McInturff said the revenue would come from the water contracts. It would have to serve as operating costs and possible debt service. "When we re-scoped the project, the costs dropped significantly, because the original 30-inch pipeline to Deming was not practical."

Vance Lee, GSFWC representative from Hidalgo County said he had questions and concerns, including that the dollar amount exceeds the Arizona Water Settlements Act allocation of $128 million. He said the funding does not include pumping to Mogollon Creek. "Would the Mogollon storage be only for water from Mogollon Creek, without water being pumped from the Gila River? What if Mogollon Creek doesn't provide enough water for Gila irrigators?"

McInturff said the Mogollon Creek storage is primarily to help endangered species, with some for irrigation.

"If there is a huge flood on Mogollon Creek, you still have to limit the take to no more than 350 cubic feet per second," Lee pointed out.

"We will leave that up to the engineers," McInturff replied.

Lee moved to approve the resolution and Alex Thal, newly elected GSFWC treasurer, representing Grant Soil and Water Conservation District seconded it. Discussion followed.

Anthony Gutierrez, Grant County planner said the county has a resolution to support the project with some changes. "The commissioners had reservations about the pipeline to Deming. However, they were confident it could be addressed."

The resolution passed unanimously.

The next item of business was a resolution on communication between the ISC and the GSFWC, which was tabled at the March meeting. Lee said the committee to study the resolution decided "it was putting the cart before the horse. We think we want to begin the GSFWC/ISC communication in considering the diversion proposals first. We want to continue determining roles."

He asked ISC Gila Project Manager Craig Roepke when he could meet with the group. Roepke suggested exchanging calendars. "I will be happy to get down here within the next month on how and when we can talk about communications. If there is any possibility we can find an open date, we will certainly come down and talk to you.

James Massengill, representing the Luna Soil and Water Conservation District asked about state funds for a state water plan.

"One of our facilitators is involved in the regional water plans," Roepke said. "The Legislature allocated $400,000 for the plans."

Bates said the GSFWC would like to offer its services to help and "to get our name in the hat to get on the schedule for updating the regional water plan."

Roepke said he concurred that the regional water planning should take place at the GSFWC. "This body as being representative of the four counties should be the one to do it. A letter to the ISC, offering the service, would be helpful."

McInturff said Deming was the fiscal agent for the last regional water plan. "It takes some administrative time, but we need to consider who should be the fiscal agent. If nobody wants it, Deming will step up and do it again, but I want to share the wealth."

Luna County Commission Javier Diaz suggested that for continuity, Deming should do it again.

Bates said he would write a letter to the ISC, giving consensus for Deming to be the fiscal agent and the GSFWC to provide the planning help.

During discussion about the meeting the day before by the Input Group, which is advising the ISC on the proposed projects to utilize water and funding from the AWSA, representatives Jeff Riley and Mary Reece, engineers from the Reclamation Phoenix office gave a presentation on the technical support they are providing for the New Mexico ISC pertinent to the AWSA.

Riley said he would talk about the engineering for proposed diversion projects and Reece would discuss economic details.

"We are doing an appraisal-level analysis on all 16 Tier-2 project proposals, including diversion and storage," Riley said.

"For the benefit-cost analysis, we translate the benefits into dollars to make it easier to compare," Reece said. "Because benefits are the most difficult to quantify, we're doing them first. Benefits transfer is looking at similar projects. Avoided costs show if one action is taken, then another doesn't have to happen. Benefits include recreation, ecosystem benefits and erosion control."

She said the report would be done within the next year.

Riley explained site visits had been made in November around the upper Cillf-Gila Valley and in March in the lower valley, including potential storage sites at Mangas and Schoolhouse Canyon, among others. "Our data collection is complete. We are upgrading the diversion proposal from the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission to show storage of flows in the alluvium and in small reservoirs. In Hidalgo County, we are talking about storage in Schoolhouse Canyon and in an amended small storage near the Arizona line. The Deming proposal featured storage in Mogollon Creek and Mangas."

"We have evaluated and quantified the storage all along the Cliff-Gila Valley, in addition to Mogollon and Mangas," Riley said. "We will evaluate all conveyance options."

He showed a schematic of a diversion structure that would be best if tied into rock walls higher up the valley where it would be more stable. It would stretch across the canyon and "shows potential. A conveyance structure to take water downstream would have gates to be able to regulate storage, as well as conveyance. It is too complex to be automatic. To carry 350 cubic feet per second at 4 cfs would require a storage 20-feet across and eight-feet deep. There are a lot of options and potential ways to run conveyance. If it maintains elevation and minimum slope it can reach out to areas."

He said Duck Creek is not really a potential storage area. Much of the cost of a diversion project would be in conveyance alignment, whether open channel or a pipeline where it crosses confluences. "We will be assessing potential storage volumes of the GBIC proposal in unsaturated alluvium. The timeframe for the draft report is spring 2014."

Thal asked if the GSFWC would be able to review and comment on the draft. Riley said the ISC would do the organizational details.

"We're focusing principally on conveyance to storage, but also the Deming pipeline from the Mangas storage," Riley said. "We will review some conveyance from storage."

The final article will feature a report on the Mimbres Basin projects.

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