Editor's Note: The Interstate Stream Commission Quarterly Public Meeting, which was held Jan. 13 at Cliff High School, will be divided into several articles. This is the second of a series of four articles. Also note that some of the presentations were lengthy and can likely be better understood from the http://www.nmawsa.org website reports. A brief summary of each report will be presented in the articles, but most of the articles will center on questions and answers. Many asked questions and most were unknown to this editor.
A male speaker commented and asked: "Everybody in the valley relies on groundwater. If you divert over the divide, how much water will be taken and will the river be able to service agriculture and the environment? Or will we have to invest in new wells?"
Craig Hoover of Bohannon Huston Inc., an Albuquerque-based civil engineering firm, contracted by the Interstate Stream Commission to do engineering studies on the three out of 15 stakeholder proposals being studied and deliberated to determine the best use of 14,000 average annual acre-feet of water and up to $128 million allocated by the Arizona Water Settlements Act, answered questions.
"That is a policy question," Hoover said. "I can't answer how much might be pumped over the divide."
Another male questioner asked how large the reservoirs Hoover had mentioned would be.
Rifka Wine, Bohannon Huston Inc., read from the report, which can be found at http://nmawsa.org/ongoing-work/bhi-diversion-and-storage-evaluation/bhi-draft-engineering-report-awsa-diversion-and-storage/view
"Sycamore Canyon storage would be the largest with 41,399 acre-feet," Wine said. "The smallest is Spar at 2,512 acre-feet of storage. Sycamore would be about as large as Bill Evans Lake."
"To the question about if the water is diverted will you have to drill deeper wells," Craig Roepke, ISC deputy director, replied. "That is why we are doing this study. There was a previous study by SS Papadopulos, which provided a model that linked surface and groundwater. The most you would see in decrease is .6 of a foot. Yes, the groundwater would drop if it were all pumped over the divide. But if 14,000 acre-feet of water were to be diverted, only 7 percent of the water could be taken on 10 percent of the days."
Sara Boyette, stakeholder, asked: "The AWSA allocated up to $128 million for all proposals, but if one preferred project needs $349 million, who makes up the difference?"
"The policy has never been to ask anyone else other than the water user," Roepke replied.
Mary Reece, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation program manager pointed out that the ISC would have to wrestle with the question.
Terry Timme, Silver City resident, commented: "A 108-inch pipe will follow Turkey Creek Road and water will cover Highway 211. It costs to move a highway."
Hoover agreed and said the relocation was included in the costs.
A male speaker asked: "You can't divert until a flood. All floodwater goes down the creek, except for what is diverted. Won't that have an effect on our wells?"
Hoover explained: "Water can be taken only above 150 cfs and only up to 350 cfs. Floodwaters will still be going down the creek."
Starr Belsky, Silver City business owner asked: "For diverting and storing, Cherokee and Schoolhouse canyons had faults. Would Pope Canyon storage serve Virden?"
Hoover replied that it would.
"I like the tunnel option, rather than open pipe, but I'm not clear when it goes from Winn to other canyons," Belsky said to which Hoover replied it would be conveyed through buried and closed pipe.
"Can you recommended alternative 2B be modular, without including all the canyons?" Belsky asked.
Hoover said: "For Winn Canyon, yes. The other canyons are to fulfill the AWSA to take full advantage of the Act."
"Can we use less water and be in compliance with the AWSA?" Belsky asked
"We do not have to use the whole 10,000 acre-feet," Roepke replied.
A male speaker asked: "Sycamore and Dix are below the canyon from which you could take water to Deming. What would the water be used for, how does it do it and what is the cost?"
It would come out of Pope across the divide," Hoover explained. "From Sycamore and Dix, it would be complementary water, which could also go over the divide. It can also be put in the river to keep it wet."
A man asked: "Can the Category 1 diversions be structured, since sometimes they dry up the river; can they be modified to keep water in the river?"
"The river has to have 20 cfs to meet the capacity of the ditch," Hoover replied.
"What is the footprint of the open conveyance? How wide is it? What about safety? Could it be fenced off from kids?," another man asked.
The footprint is 70 feet, on a cut slope, with a channel and berm, Hoover said. "The water can come out of the diversion over the Coanda screen into the conveyance with a tunnel."
"In our recommendation 2B, it would be all pipes after the tunnel," Wine clarified.
A woman asked if because the diversion is on Forest Service land, which would require extensive permitting, for fair distribution, "won't there be metering?"
Roepke said the ditches are metered, to which there was an outcry from the audience that the ditches were not metered. "Then it's up to the Office of the State Engineer," Roepke said.
"Who is the primary user of the water and what does it mean for fish and wildlife?" a man asked.
"The first user is the valley," Hoover replied. "Potentially the water could go across the divide. Other studies such as fish and wildlife are done. The low-flow passage we recommended is beneficial to fish."
A man said for the Pope storage, there was mention of rerouting highway 211.
Hoover said it could be rerouted on top of the dam or tie into 180 and building up from there.
"If storage is located low in the valley, it would have to be pumped to the top of the valley," Hoover pointed out.
"Electrical consumption to get over the divide would be a lot," a man observed. "What if the downstream users want the water?"
Hoover agreed by saying: the dynamic head to get over the divide would be 2,000 feet, so it would require five lift stations.
"I have water rights. If I don't use them, I could lose them," a man said "Are we trying to use all the allocated water rights? Who is going to use the water?"
Hoover said Bohannon and Huston was tasked with determining how to use all the allocated water, to fulfill water rights.
Wine said the electricity usage would be 200,000 kilowatt-hours per year.
"I can't answer that or give assurance that users want the water," Hoover replied to the previous questioner.
A man asked if the locations were determined before or after the flood, because there were some changes.
Hoover said the surveys were done after the September flood for a useful life of a structure of 50-75 years.
Kyle Johnson, Gila Valley resident, said existing water rights holders have the right to use up to their amount of water rights.
"How do you make a distinction for $350 million on water projects to obtain the water?" he asked. "How does this impact existing water rights holders? Are they expecting to be the beneficiaries? How does that fit into the cost of the end user, which is about $2 million a year? Who is the beneficiary and who is paying?"
"We need to move along. I will answer that after the Reclamation presentations," Roepke said.
The next article will cover the Reclamation presentations and start the question and answer stage of the meeting.