The Gila /San Francisco Water Commission held a short meeting in Deming on Tuesday, June 18. The group lacked a quorum by two voting members, so everything was done by consensus.
The first item of business was whether or not to contract for a publicist to promote the use of Arizona Water Settlements Act water and funding, as allocated for the four-county region of Catron, Grant, Hidalgo and Luna.
Chairman Tom Bates said Rick Holdridge, president of the Deming Soil and Water Conservation District, had been invited to speak at the Region 3 meeting of the soil and water conservation districts on the AWSA process. He had asked for help in preparing a briefing. Vance Lee, GSFWC member representing Hidalgo County, said he would work on the wording.
A letter to the Range Improvement Task Force at New Mexico State University would ask for a scientific review of the Nature Conservancy project to study the impact withdrawing water from the Gila River might have on species and habitat.
Under old business, there was discussion on a brochure created by Mary Alice Murphy at the request of the commission. Vance Lee had provided much of the wording on the brochure. It was suggested that quotes be received for printing large amounts of the brochure for handing out to those interested in the issue. Murphy and Rick McInturff of the city of Deming would seek quotes. McInturff said Deming would pay for the first run of the brochure.
A member noted that the group needed to be planning for the future, so local communities did not end up in the same situation as the town of Magdalena, where the town well ran dry and water is having to be hauled in. Also mentioned was the village of Hanover in Grant County, which several years ago also ran out of water and had to have it hauled to residents.
Members requested Murphy also work on a PowePoint presentation.
During public comments, Richard Bauch, Santa Clara mayor, said the four mayors in Grant County had met after a call from Congressman Pearce asking for their support of the regional water project.
"We discussed the issue. They are generally in support. Santa Clara does support it," Bauch said. "Mayor Ed Encinas in Hurley has reservations, because he wants some of the funding to help his village develop a water supply."
McInturff said he received a copy of the meeting notes and sent a sample resolution of support to the mayors for consideration by their councils.
Bauch said the town of Silver City had stated that as long as the Gila River runs it will continue to recharge the town's wellfields. Even if the aquifer drops, the town believes the river will recharge it constantly.
McInturff said he had heard that there is an initiative by the mines to extend the water agreement for Hurley, so until it can get the funding needed, it will continue to have water for residents.
Bauch said developing Gila water would guarantee water for his village, because "once the wellfield is dry, it is dry."
McInturff said there was a misconception that if the water is developed it will no longer recharge the aquifer. "Only flood waters will be taken. The river will continue to flow and recharge aquifers."
Lee said the village of Animas is seeing its aquifer drop by a foot or more every year. "They asked me if they could get some of that Gila water."
Darr Shannon, Hidalgo County commissioner, said the Lordsburg aquifer has increased by about seven feet.
McInturff said Luna County's aquifer continues to drop a foot to a foot and a half a year.
The next meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, July 16, at the Grant County Administration Center.