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NMISC AWSA quarterly meeting 071513, part 2

The second part of the Interstate Stream Commission quarterly Arizona Water Settlements Act public input meeting featured evaluations of the first two elements of the 2014 fiscal year work plan.

Helen Sobien, ISC Gila Engineer, warned participants: "I don't do opinions."

She said the 2014 AWSA work plan includes nine elements with an expenditure of $2,845,000. The synopsis of the work plan can be found at nmawsa.org.

Element 1 is to assess and evaluate two effluent reuse proposals, and a proposal to take water from near the Grant County Airport to Hurley, including acquiring additional water right from recharge credit of effluent from the Silver City Wastewater Treatment Plant, at an appraisal level assessment. "They need to be done by September, 2013, so the Bureau of Reclamation can do its evaluations." The allocated cost for the assessments is $187,000.


Deming, Grant County and the Grant County Water Commission have three proposals. An effluent reuse proposal from Bayard has been withdrawn.

The Grant County original proposal was to use Bayard Regional Wastewater Treatment Plan effluent to create a reservoir near Santa Clara.

The Grant County Water Commission has applied for 700 acre-feet of water rights, through a request for credit for the Silver City Wastewater Treatment Plan effluent, to add to an existing 193 acre-feet at the Grant County Airport and to create a 16-mile pipeline to Hurley.

The Deming effluent reuse project will use effluent to water fields, parks and school athletic fields.

"We have hired a consultant to do the appraisal level assessments," Sobien said. "Some have asked why the particular consultants were chosen. The ISC already had five on contract, so it will speed up the process."

The Grant County Water Commission project would take water from near the Grant County Airport to Hurley, which does not have water rights of its own, but has relied on Freeport McMoRan for water. The project would require a 16-mile pipeline and would provide 700 acre-feet of water to the town.

Sobien said Hurley has already procured engineering help to work on the project.

Grant County has proposed to hook into the Bayard city effluent, but what the county wants most is a reservoir for recreation, Sobien said. The Deming regional project requires a pipeline from the Gila River to Deming, and water could be taken off a spur to create the reservoir.

Element 2, which has $720,000 allocated to it, would assess and evaluate the diversion and storage proposals to support Reclamation's work. Items on the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission project proposal include storage in on-farm ponds, reclaiming farms that were lost in the 1960s Supreme Court decision, improvements of existing irrigation diversions and storage of water in the alluvium.

Hidalgo County's proposal is to store Gila River water in Schoolhouse Canyon, with an additional off-stream storage near Virden.

The Deming project, also known as the Mimbres Regional Water Supply proposal, would store water on Mogollon and/or Mangas creeks and pump the water to towns in the Mimbres Basin.

Sobien explained the Mogollon proposal is not intended to be a diversion, but would capture water from the watershed. Private consultants will assess the engineering, feasibility, environmental impacts, and esthetic and cultural considerations, as well as costs.

A questioner asked how many miles of pipeline would be required to take Gila water to the Mimbres Basin. Craig Roepke, Interstate Stream Commission deputy director, estimated about 80 miles.

Roepke then introduced the two new people hired to help with the assessments and evaluations.

Ali Effati, a civil engineer, will serve a water and wastewater focus, including stream restoration, bank stabilization, flood management and watershed management.

David Anderson has been with the Office of the State Engineer for 8 ½ years on water rights. "I'm happy to see this much interest," he said. He will join the ISC in two weeks.

Effati explained the water diversion methods. "Could we safely divert the water without a dam? In many cases, the answer is yes, where sufficient water depth consistently occurs."

He presented methods to divert water and preserve the environment. They include infiltration galleries, screened pipe intake, seasonal dams and consolidated diversions.

The infiltration galleries involve perforated pipes in a gravel streambed with connectors to storage. A fabric filter prevents the infiltration galleries from filling with sediment. The advantages are that there is no risk of fish being entrained; diversions can take place any time of the year; and the pipes are not visible from the surface.  The disadvantages include clogging issues, requiring manual maintenance; and they are difficult to construct where the banks are not alluvial.

The screened-pipe intake safely diverts water to the distribution system for mixed use or into surface or subsurface storage. The advantages include they can function without a dam and sediment and fish cannot pass through them. The disadvantages are that they are expensive to install and are not feasible in insufficient flows.

Seasonal dams are temporary structures. There are two common types. Inflatable dams/gate diversions are either thick rubber or fabric and could be anchored to concrete across the river. Flashboard dams have a concrete foundation and frame into which boards are inserted to block stream flow and raise the water level for diversion. Advantages are that water, sediment and fish can pass when the dam is not in use, and seasonal dams provide cool water habitat. The disadvantages are that they can inhibit the dynamic nature of the river, bladders can be damaged by debris, and there are maintenance and/or electrical requirements.

Consolidated diversions reduce the number of diversions to a single diversion point. The advantage is the reduction in the number of diversions; the disadvantages are that they require more materials and there is an increase in pumping and conveyance costs.

Effati pointed out the existing diversions n the Gila Valley including the Freeport-McMoRan diversion for Bill Evans Lake, the Redrock North diversion, the Redrock Ditch and the Sunset diversion.

Other structures that could be considered for improving existing diversions include cross-vane and gabion dam/diversions.

Cross-vane is a weir-type diversion that reduces velocity and rate of water surface drop to maintain pool habitat to enhance fish habitat, prevent disruption of sediment transports and reduces stream bank erosion. The disadvantages are that a fish passage should be considered during design; it is applicable only in streams with gravel and cobble substrates; it is not effective in low flows; and may create habitat for predators, such as catfish.

A gabion dam is a diversion pool dammed inexpensively with gabions to provide water extraction at the surface rather than beneath the sediment. They are pervious to water and less susceptible to sedimentation issues. However, the disadvantages are that they are not applicable in environmentally sensitive areas; have adverse sedimentation issues if flood stage rises above the water level of the diversion pond; and have probable maintenance issues like the gabions separating and losing rocks or clogging with debris.

Effati said consultants have been hired to assess the different types of structures and their feasibility.

"The heart of any diversion structure is the analysis of the riverbed, flow distribution and care in the engineering and design that governs its operation," Effati concluded. "One of the key parameters is sedimentation."

An audience member asked if water depth consistency occurs and where in the Gila River.

Effati said one of the key elements is the hydraulic gradient for gravity feed. "We would create our depth or raise the water level."

Starr Belsky, Silver City business owner, asked if the information would be on the website. She was told it would be.

Walter "Ski" Szymanski asked who on the Interstate Stream Commission was the representative for leaving water in the river.  "How about hiring someone to keep water in the river."

"Our job is not to take water out of the river or leave water in it, to build effluent reuses or create conservation," Roepke said. "Our job is to bring as much information as we can to the ISC so the commissioners can make a decision.

"We can analyze if we can take water out," he continued. "Yes, it is permissible, or no, it won't work. Our job is not to build a dam. The ISC's job is to take the AWSA information to decide the best use for the water and/or money."

"When does living within one's own watershed means come into account?" Szymanski asked. "Why the hell are we pumping out of one watershed into another? I don't understand the need."

"If the need is not there, we won't do anything," Roepke said. "It is unclear what you want us to do."

Another questioners asked: "If 80 percent of the water is for agriculture, what is the value of agricultural products?"

"It is not clear that the water will be used for ag," Roepke replied. "Right now, the demand for water is 80 percent to agriculture."

"Agriculture is not sustainable. It is subsidized," Kyle Johnson of Gila Mimbres Community Radio said. "This process has been going on for many years. Now it is a top-down process, like the imposition of copper rules. I don't appreciate the process when I see it here to capture water."

An audience member said: "The ISC wants the best possible information from Reclamation. Is the USGS part of the Department of the Interior?"

He waved papers he said were 2013 reports by the USGS on the ecological health in America's streams. "They address the depletion of aquifers. One says streamflow disruption is a bad idea. Could you be champion of these reports? Be a champion to take information and objectively come to a decision."

"It is not just Reclamation we have dialogue with," Roepke said. "The bulk of the money is being spent on ecological studies, because the depletion rate has remained steady."

The same audience member reported that monitoring wells say depletion is zero. "Agencies in the same department don't know what each is doing."

Another questioner asked about Roepke's previous comment (editor's note: it can be seen at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/index.php/news/news-articles/11463-nm-isc-quarterly-awsa-meeting-071513-part-1) on worst judgments being legislative or judicial. "The difference is that judicial, such as treatment of the endangered species, is better."

"When we go into court, if it is a natural resource issue, we end up with competing experts and judges who don't have the expertise," Roepke said. "In one judicial district, you will get one opinion; in another district, a different opinion. In Europe, experts work it out. Politicians we don't have to talk about. There is a judicial opinion, legislators put a rider on a bill that overrides what the judge says."

Reese Fullerton, serving as facilitator, said: "If we have input from residents, we get better decisions."

The next article will cover Roepke's presentations of the remaining elements of the ISC work plan for the next fiscal year and questions from the audience.

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