Editor's Note: This is part 3 of an Interstate Stream Commission quarterly public meeting on the Arizona Water Settlements Act. it begins the question portion after the three presentations.

The quarterly meeting held by the Interstate Stream Commission on the 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act planning process was held Monday, Oct. 21. The process addresses proposals to utilize an average 14,000 acre-feet of Gila and San Francisco rivers surface water and to use up to $128 million for conservation and a possible New Mexico water storage unit.

"I can see the necessity of the first and third projects," Terry Timme of the Southwest New Mexico Audubon Society said. "What is the second project?"

"A recreational reservoir," Helen Sobien, ISC staff engineer, said.

"The second project originally had three water sources," Walter "Ski" Szymanski of Silver City pointed out. "Now it's storm runoff and potable water because effluent is off the table?"

"There is not enough storm water to fill a reservoir," Sobien replied.

"This potable water is from the Gila River?" Szymanski asked.

"The plan is to use AWSA water," Sobien said. "Bohannon Huston was not hired to go beyond designing a reservoir."

"Is this Lake Ramos?" Kyle Johnson, Gila resident, asked. "The Grant County Commission endorsed the Deming project and said: 'We'll do anything to keep the water here. There are several ways to get it because out of Grant County is nonsensical.'

"This is worthy of a raised eyebrow," Johnson continued. "If it is fed by Gila River water, so someone can row their boat? It's really a bad idea."

"About 80 percent of you or you're saying 95 percent of you applauded the comment," Reese Fullerton, facilitator said.

An unknown speaker asked: "What is the lifespan of a dam? How long to get it filled up with dirt and how much to dredge it?"

"This is at the conceptual level," Jennifer Hill of Bohannon Huston Inc. said. "Yes, there would be sediment. There would be a control pond uphill from the reservoir. We have also looked at how much dirt would be required for an earthen dam. You would have to clean out the sediment, usually every 10 years."

The same unknown speaker asked a follow up question: "Is this included in the operations and maintenance?" to which Hill said she didn't think so.

The same speaker said he wondered how these three projects reached the ISC. Are there more and by whom were they proposed?

"We will address that later," David Anderson, ISC staff, said. "Sixteen passed the Tier 2 application process. One was withdrawn, so 15 are left."

Janet Wallet-Ortiz, Silver City resident and WNMU professor commented:
"Related to the cost, why not take the boat down the Gila River, if it's still there. This is a high-hazard dam with an emergency plan. Is there a cost for that to have it ready just in case?"

Rifka Wine, Bohannon Huston Inc., replied that it would be a jurisdictional dam under the Office of the State Engineer. The emergency plan is included in the costs."

"But not to pay those who have to address the emergency?" Wallet-Ortiz asked, and Wine replied that those costs were not included.

Another unknown speaker asked: "Just to clarify, this is high-hazard. Is there an extreme hazard?"

"This is the highest level, because there are people downstream," Wine replied.

Johnson interrupted: "And if there are no people downstream?" to which Wine replied that it would be designated a significant hazard dam.

"This proposal was originally for effluent," Nancy Kaminski, Southwest Audubon Society, said. "Without the effluent, how did it get changed?"

"Bayard denied all access to its wastewater treatment plant," Sobien replied. "There was still a one-mile gap to where one could pick up the effluent. No one made an attempt to bridge the gap. The New Mexico Environment Department has laws on Class 1A and Class 1B treated effluent. These laws determine when one can water with which class. A recreational reservoir needs clean water. Grant County wanted fishable, drinkable water. The ISC had the idea and Grant County changed it."

"It's deceptive that water is diverted from the Gila River to fill up the reservoir and water parks in Deming," Jackie Blurton, Silver City resident, noted. "The reservoir will destroy the riparian area."

Sarah Boyette, Southwest Audubon Society, asked what designated recreational use. Sobien replied that it included fishing, swimming and boating.

"This is a high-hazard dam, using Gila River water to go fishing" Boyette said. "They can fish in the river. I don't quite get it."

"It's a reservoir to waste water," resident Jeff Boyd said.

"I'm concerned about the Hurley wells and the Copper Rules," a woman said. "Is it wise to drill near the mines?"

"Whose dam is it and what kind of liability is there?" Starr Belsky, Silver City business owner asked.

"It would be under the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer," Wine replied

"So the state of New Mexico pays," Belsky surmised.

Tom Bates, Grant county resident, asked if there were any economic benefit, to which Sobien replied that revenue would be generated. "There will be lifestyle enhancement, and it will draw tourists. Jeff Riley of Reclamation says recreation is often a large revenue creator."

"And it will destroy the Gila River," Johnson interrupted again.

To a previous question on drilling near the mines, Bill Miller of William J. Miller Engineering, replied: "The pumping tests at the well site showed the water is suitable for drinking."

"Compare the lifestyle enhancement of a reservoir to the Gila River where people live and earn a living," Ella Kirk, Aldo Leopold High School sophomore, who earlier presented a petition, commented.

"There hasn't been answer to an earlier question," Fullerton noted.

"It deserves an answer," Anderson said. "The ISC is evaluating 15 proposals, including juxtaposing one project to another. The evaluations are trying to give apples-to-apples comparisons.

The area has folks with many different backgrounds—natives, miners, ranchers, and retirees, just to name a few. Their values may be different. This isn't the only venue where people give input. You may value different things. Please respect one another's values and positions. The ISC will take all comments into consideration."

"The second project—Lake Ramos—how big is it and how deep?" an unknown speaker asked.

"The dam is 91 feet high," Sobien replied. "Its surface is about twice that of Bill Evans Lake. The dam is higher."

The same speaker asked who owns the property for the reservoir. Wine replied that it is private land and Forest Service land.

"We have designed several high-hazard dams and none has failed," Wine noted.

"When you have other sources for comment, will you make the point that the proposal and presentation are misleading and that water is coming from the Gila or will you get a challenge?" another speaker asked.

"The information should be on the website telling where the water comes from," Fullerton noted.

The next article will continue the questions and answers on the projects.

Live from Silver City

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