The Gila/San Francisco Water Commission did not have a quorum at its meeting in Silver City this morning, so no action was taken on any items, although several were discussed.
When a request for corrections to the minutes was given by GSFWC Chairman Tom Bates, Gerald Schultz, Tyrone resident representing New Mexico resource conservation districts, asked that the comments in the August minutes be replaced by the comments he has requested be put in the minutes. After several people informed him that what was done, even if it was incorrect, could not be changed, he backed down, but said he would make the correct comments later in the meeting, during discussion on the planned reservation fund, which was passed at the August meeting.
During the discussion on the reservation fund, Bates said a draft of the letter, developed by treasurer, Alex Thal, made him wonder if the group needed a legal opinion on the purpose, "since we're using taxpayer funds."
Anthony Gutierrez, representing Grant County, said he would talk to the county attorney. "I think it will be OK, because we are doing it for the good of all residents and not just to benefit a company, which would not be allowed."
Schultz asked if any other group, other than Gila/San Francisco Water Commission members, could pay the fee into the fund.
"That was not the intent of the motion passed at our last meeting," Vance Lee, representing Hidalgo County, said. "It was intended to be only members, because we are government entities, representing our constituents."
Schultz then read his comments and began with: "Please do not interrupt me. I asked that this one be read at the August meeting, but the wrong one was read. I ask that these comments be put into today's minutes."
He said it appears to him that anyone who pays the fee would have first chance at the water over anyone not paying the fees. "I may not have all the details." He said other groups have equal claim to the water. It should also include those who want to leave the water in the river, to buy it and leave it in the river.
Schultz said he had since received information that the fund would be used to help with expenses of acquiring the water. "Would it help you to have the old Hooker Dam funding?"
Gutierrez asked about a comment Schultz made of other entities, which had not presented proposals. "I don't know of anyone who didn't present a project," Gutierrez said. "The Interstate Stream Commission has always maintained the ISC would review any other requests to use the water."
"I think you're talking about two different things," Gutierrez continued. "I think you're talking about the money and the water. The reservation fund shows that the commission has buy-in. The fund is solely for diversion projects."
Bates pointed out that the fund does not give anyone first chance. "It's showing we need the water, but we are not doling out the water."
Lee said he felt the draft letter was well done. "I don't think we need any additional action, because it was already passed last month. We need it put on letterhead and sent."
On the issue of a professional publicist, Lee said he had talked to ISC's Craig Roepke, who had done a scope of work. "I've seen it and it's extensive and expensive. Since then, Craig Roepke has done a different version for meeting notes. He also said if there were specific things the GSFWC wants done, he can help us work on a scope."
Schultz said he had been following the professional publicist discussion. "Many groups, including governmental entities, have an information officer. Is that similar to a publicist? Is there a job description written?"
Lee said there was no job description, and beyond the dissemination of the brochure that had been developed, the group would need to talk to Roepke about how to go about other outreach.
"After the last meeting, both Archie Payne and I took the brochures to the Hidalgo County Fair," Lee said. "It was very well received. A lot of people asked questions and talked to us about the bullet points. Any opportunity we have, we need to hand them out. I think you'll be surprised at how well received they will be."
Javier Diaz, Luna County commissioner, said: "The majority of the public isn't aware of what we're trying to do. When they are made aware, they are supportive. The ones opposed to what we're doing are well in tune and good at voicing their opinions."
Schultz said he has discussed how the review of studies is being handled. "One way to get people involved is to inform them."
Bates pointed out that another avenue for public outreach is through Community Access Television of Silver City and its radio station KOOT FM.
Schultz pointed out the southern New Mexico Fair gets a huge number of people to which the brochure could be presented.
Lee asked what the GSFWC needed to do to work with CATS.
"Write a public service announcement," Bates said. "We also need a logo."
Janice Kiehne of the 1894 Luna Irrigation Ditch said she had been tasked a couple of meetings ago to look into bumper stickers. "After mulling it over and talking to others who know more about it, they told me the more simple, the more direct, the better." She presented several possibilities. Kiehne also suggested public service announcements on local radio stations.
Kiehne asked for opinions on the bumper stickers. Bates said he agreed that the shorter, the better. Diaz said he doesn't like bumper stickers, but thinks they would be effective.
Kiehne said she has someone willing to do draft drawings and she also has prices for producing the stickers.
Dave Ogilvie, representing the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission, said the report Roepke had given at the group's recent meeting showed that even with the recent flow of 30,000 cubic feet per second, it would not have been possible to withdraw water from the river, due to other constraints in the Consumptive Use and Forbearance Agreement of the Arizona Water Settlements Act.
Mary Alice Murphy, reporting for the Grant County Beat, said if the San Carlos Reservoir does not have at least 30,000 acre-feet of water stored, water could not be diverted out of the Gila. However, if after five years of less than an average 30,000 acre-feet of water stored in the reservoir, the terms can be re-negotiated. She encouraged members to read the recent articles.
Schultz suggested Western New Mexico University could be a source of students willing to record public service announcements just for practice. "As we get older, our voices get raspy. Granted, we have to tell the public what they need to know, but we have to help them get over their notions. We need to work on their notions."
In another agenda item, Bates pointed out the Open Meetings Resolution needs to be amended because the law has changed. "I'll have Dori (Dominguez of Grant County, who serves as secretary for the water commission) put together the resolution, based on the Grant County one, for next month."
Gutierrez said he would get more information about the changes.
Bates requested the next GSFWC meeting be changed from the regular date of Oct. 16 to Oct. 22, to more closely align with the Input Group Meetings to be held the day before. The meeting was set for 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 22.
He also recognized that three county commissioners were in attendance—Gabriel Ramos and Ron Hall of Grant County and Diaz of Luna County.
During public comments, Schultz read from a prepared statement. He said New Mexico First was planning another Townhall on water issues in 2014. Schultz recently attended a workshop on "Transformational Solutions for Western Water." Although he lost his notes, he said it was a good learning experience. Sen. Tom Udall gave a presentation on turning ideas into policy. It was pointed out that municipal conservation, desalinization, water trading and agricultural irrigation efficiency improvements would not be enough to close the water gap between demand and availabilty. Solutions may come from technology and policy.
Schultz said the ISC has created a handbook for those groups updating their regional water plans. He also said the Silver City Office of Sustainability has issued a plan. "They said they would get back to reviewers on how their comments were used. That's the way reviews should be handled. I gave up on reviewing the AWSA study projects. The funding for ISC projects uses public dollars. Nothing in the Input Group meeting notes can replace the thorough review of studies."
The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Grant County Administration Center.