The Grant County Water Commission met Wednesday afternoon to hear updates.

After commissioners, consisting of the municipal mayors and the Grant County Commission chairman, approved the amendment to the Open Meetings Act resolution to reflect a legislative change to noticing the meetings from the former 24-hour notice to the present 72-hour notice, they heard an update to the airport recharge credits application.

Peter Russell of the Silver City Community Development Department said the town has applied for 750 acre-feet of return flow credit to apply to the town's wellfield near the Grant County Airport.

"We sent into the Office of the State Engineer the application created by Balleau (Groundwater Inc. of Albuquerque)," Russell said. "It was approved by (Charles) 'Tink' Jackson (District Supervisor) of the Deming Office. We are in the third week of the notification process, which ends in about a week. If protests emerge, we will go through the next steps."

Alex Brown, Silver City Town Manager, who is a member of the commission at the behest of Mayor James Marshall, said he had spoken to Tom Whatley at the Deming office, who said no protests had been received so far. "We also talked to Freeport McMoRan, because the company would be the main one impacted by our application."

The next update was by Gary Berg of Engineers Inc., who discussed the status of the Regional Water Project Preliminary Engineering Report.

"I have given you copies of the sketch map," Berg said. "On it, we roughly show two possible corridors for the water line from Hurley to the Silver City Chloride Flat tanks. In work we did a couple of years ago, we roughly laid out a corridor along U.S. 180, but Santa Clara's and Bayard's booster stations are not along the highway. This shows the possible corridor to include their booster stations, so they can take water from the line if it is needed, so they can manage it."

He described some of the potential problems such as low spots, where pumping would be required, and the route along which elevations vary.

"We can do it from Hurley to Bayard with pump pressure in a 14-inch pipe," Berg said. "Across to Santa Clara, we cross another 6,000-foot elevation pass, but with 150 (pounds per square inch), it shouldn't be a problem."

He indicated two places on the way to Silver City that might pose problems at Kirkland Road and Sheriff's Posse Road.

"What we want ready is a good power system," Berg said. "We can make a run from U.S. 180 to the Bayard booster station and then to the one at Santa Clara. This corridor is mostly on Freeport property, which means we would have to deal with only one owner."

Other options include various property owners, including municipal, Freeport and private owners.

"Once we get a little deeper into the process, we need to decide who we want to work with," Berg said. "One concern we have is that if the water is not running often, it may stagnate, and we would have to discharge some. It might help garner property owner's agreement to an easement if they might receive some water for grazing or growing grass."

He suggested that another booster station might be required. "I know the goal is for the water to flow both ways."

"If the town receives the 750 acre-feet of return flow credits, that comes out to about 500 gallons a minute," Berg said. "The pipeline capacity we have designed can carry 1,000 gallons a minute."

Commission Chairman Brett Kasten asked if the proposal meets the mayors' needs.

"We believe it will," Berg said. "But we haven't gotten the PER ready for review. What we're working on is being able to make the water available to the various entities."

Bayard Mayor Charles Kelly said it would be nice to have water available, especially "if we're going to continue to provide water to Hanover. Yes, we may need it."

During commissioner input, Hurley Mayor Edward Encinas said he had met with Kevin Cook of Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. about the possibility of extending beyond four years the deadline for Hurley no longer to be dependent on Freeport to provide the town's water. "With the funding we have and are seeking, it is probably impossible to complete our project within four years. I gave him the documentation to take to higher management."

Brown said the water commission's joint-powers agreement is up-to-date to continue talking about water needs.

"Does this look hopeful that we can share water?" Kelly asked.

"The town is not going through the return flow credit application except to benefit the whole area," Brown replied. "It will take a long time, but no one has gotten as far as we have on a regional water plan. We have talked to several funding agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Colonias Infrastructure Fund, the Water Trust Board and the Arizona Water Settlements Act through the Interstate Stream Commission.

"This is a phase of the proposed AWSA pipeline to Deming," Brown pointed out. "I see it as a real possibility."

"I just want to make sure you mayors get what you need," Kasten said.

A future meeting date was not set, as Brown said information comes in slowly, so a date should be set when a meeting is needed.

Live from Silver City

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