Editor's Note: This is the final report on the Tuesday, April 16 Gila/San Francisco Water Commission meeting.
Helen Sobien, ISC engineer, said she is reviewing Mimbres Valley projects, including the Deming effluent relatively small reuse project, for which a consultant has been hired to do an economic analysis by July.
The Grant County wellfield to provide water to Hurley in a 16-mile pipeline is being evaluated by William J. Miller Engineers. "We visited each entity. Engineers, Inc. did the preliminary engineering report, but won't be finished in time for economic analysis."
For reuse of effluent from the Regional Wastewater Plant, there are competing projects. Bayard wants to use the effluent to water its parks. Grant County's proposal includes the watering of parks, but then piping it northward to Santa Clara to put in a reservoir on Twin Sisters or Cameron creek. A consultant has been hired.
"Each entity is seeking funds elsewhere, not just asking for AWSA funding," Sobien said.
Beatriz Vigil, webmaster for the nmawsa.org website, asked people to send her their comments and concerns.
Interstate Stream Commission Deputy Director Craig Roepke gave an overview of two meetings held the previous day. "The Input Group was very helpful and had a productive meeting. The public meeting in the evening had about 100 people, most of whom were of the don't-touch-a-drop-of-water-in-the-Gila proclivity. I offered that if they would continue to show up in such numbers, we would continue giving presentations."
Thal asked how the GSFWC might be able to assist the ISC. "Often such meetings are dominated by certain groups. We have a lot of people in other areas who are interested in what's going on. How do we get input with a cross selection of input, with the best use of your time?"
"I don't know if everyone on this body gets the notices of the public meetings," Roepke said. "How many don't get the notices?" A few hands went up.
"I encourage you to let people know about the meetings," Roepke said. "It's always helpful to hear from all interests. I've been doing this for 13 years, and a single interest tends to dominate the discussion, and they finally end up digging themselves into holes without a sustainable project. The interest here is very passionate and organized, but it would be nice to see a balance in comments."
During public comments, GSFWC member Vance Lee, representing Hidalgo County, said he appreciated the presentations at the GSFWC meeting. "I wonder why people say nothing is happening."
GSFWC Chairman Tom Bates said he thought the previous night's presentation created some realization that likely no damage will be done to the river by diversion. "But if the NEPA process shows damage, a diversion will likely not happen."
Ales Thal, representing Grant Soil and Water Conservation District, recommended drafting a letter to the ISC showing appreciation for the presentations.
Gerald Schultz, representing statewide Resource and Conservation District entities, said he was glad Hathaway gave her presentation for the viewing audience. (The meeting was recorded by Community Access Television of Silver City and is viewable on at least two channels).
Schultz said groundwater is becoming a topic of interest, and he mentioned two conferences on the subject, which he has recently attended.
He commented on the review process of the analyses, and said, during his Reclamation and U.S. Geologic Survey career, such reports were peer reviewed without public comment, except perhaps to community leaders, or in some cases for specific studies presented to the public. In most cases in the past, the public could express opinions on the studies when they were made available.
Schultz said Reclamation recently completed a detailed supply and demand study on the Colorado River Basin. He suggested people get hold of it and read the 100-page executive summary.
He cited the review process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and how "essential" it was to the work of the IPCC.
"These examples point out the need and benefits of a review process at all levels of writing, whether it be interim, progress, draft or final reports," Schultz said.
He said the ISC seems to want all comments, whether significant or not, to be placed on the nmawsa.org website. Schultz said, in his opinion, it sounded good on the surface, but all comments are subject to being censored or "moderated." He said he finds the site difficult to navigate.
"I desire that my comments particularly be in the hands of the authors of the various reports of the studies they are doing in the Gila Basin," he continued. "I have been chastised twice when I advocated that my review comments be in their hands. … I will accept only a statement from an author who states how my review comments were used or why if it was not used."
"It is my opinion that one of the mistakes that the folks who want to leave the water in the river make is that they gather in huge numbers at official meetings and each one states the same thing—only in different words," Schultz said. "If they feel strongly compassionate about what they believe in, they have to 'force the issue.' If the 'group rhetoric' does not work, then they have to create other ways."
He said, similarly, he feels the time has come to "force the issue" to get his comments into the hands of the authors.
Schultz then read a poem, "Priorities." One of the lines was "If priorities are not straightened out, It will be man on the endangered list."
M.H. "Dutch" Salmon of the Gila Conservation Coalition said, looking at the flow regime, it seems like the changes will be subtle, "but not subtle will be wall-to-wall dam storage and a conveyance pipeline 6 to 8 feet in diameter in the Upper Box between the Mogollon and Turkey Creek confluences. It's something we're concerned about. At the other end is Mangas Creek, the last best refuge for the loach minnow and possibly the spikedace. They already face three threats—ash flow, non-native fish and droughts. None of these threats exist in the Mangas. No ash flow, no non-native fish, and it has a perennial flow from springs."
He pointed out the resolution said the Gila River was the only renewable source for the Mimbres Basin. "That is not completely true, as snowfall in the Pinos Altos Range and the Black Range bring natural recharge to the basin, which exceeds the amount that could be gotten from the CUFA."
Grant County Commissioner Gabriel Ramos said he appreciated the time and efforts of the GSFWC. "It's time to stop asking 'if,' and time to start asking 'how.' I ask the special interest groups to help us with the how. The special interest groups are getting paid to fight and get others together. I think everyone wants the water to stay in the region and not go to Las Cruces or El Paso."
The next GSFWC meeting will take place in Deming at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, venue to be announced.