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 third 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.
In this particular article, an economist spoke, and it was impossible to get all the numbers. It is expected the report wll be posted to the nmawsa.org website within a week or two.
Vivian Gonzales, Reclamation project manager, said Reclamation had developed a memorandum of understanding last May with the Interstate Stream Commission to provide technical support at an appraisal level, using available data.
"Tonight, you will hear a very preliminary economic analysis, an engineering assessment of diversion and storage options, identification and engineering of other diversion and storage configurations, an environmental review for potential effects and a brief discussion on cultural resources.
Steve Piper, Reclamation economist from the Denver office, gave first an economic analysis of non-diversion alternatives. "As an economist, we do not give answers, just more questions."
He explained the different types of economic analyses. An economic analysis compares economic benefits and costs. A regional impact analysis determines the effect of project construction, and operations and maintenance costs. The four steps are in the economic analysis to identify and quantify the project costs and monetize them, and in the regional impact to identify and quantify the project benefits and monetize them.
"I will emphasize throughout my presentations that these are preliminary appraisal level results," Piper said.
He gave a hypothetical example and showed the numbers. Then in his slides, he rapidly went through the various non-diversion alternatives, always emphasizing the preliminary results. He used proposal estimates of engineering costs and said he is waiting for the engineering cost estimates
"Can we ask the elders who have been here for generations, in basic form is there enough water for 150 cfs or above?" a man asked and answered. "They would say maybe, so is it viable to divert?"
Piper said the analyses are based on the proposals.
"Is the money available for these proposals?" a woman asked.
"We don't look at that from an economic standpoint," Piper said. "Whether it's federal, state or user money, we suppose the money is available."
Jeff Riley, Reclamation engineer said he would talk about diversion alternatives.
"We did site visits" Riley said. "Those analyses are complete. The cost estimates are nearly done. I will discuss the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission, the city of Deming southwest regional pipeline, and Hidalgo County's proposals.
"The costs have not undergone rigorous engineering review," Riley cautioned. "These are preliminary appraisal level. Note that all costs have other costs added to them."
"I didn't hear the benefits," a woman said.
"We are giving only costs," Riley answered. "Steve's benefits will be used."
"The Mangas storage was ruled out, I thought, because of endangered species," a woman said. "And Schoolhouse and Cherokee canyons have faults."
"Reclamation does not agree with the analyses, so we are continuing to evaluate." Riley said.
Kimberly Musser, Reclamation National Environmental Policy Act specialist, was the next to speak.
If any project involves the federal government, that agency has to do NEPA.
NEPA is driven by what the state of New Mexico decides to do. If it's a New Mexico Unit, Reclamation will do NEPA.
If it's not diversion, but is on Forest Service land, the Forest Service does NEPA.
Carol Evans, Reclamation biologist, said she would speak to only the three diversion proposals and the Endangered Species Act requirements.
"The southwest willow flycatcher is a listed species in the valley, and the yellow-billed cuckoo, which is also found in the valley, is proposed for listing," she said.
Evans also said the Grant County reservoir proposal near Fort Bayard may involve the gray vireo, which is a state species of concern.
"The Deming project would use Mangas for storage," Evans said. "Mangas Creek has spikedace and loach minnow and the two birds, as well as the narrow-headed garter snake and northern Mexico garter snake.
"For the GBIC proposal, there are no listed fish in Mogollon Creek, but there may be possible habitat for the yellow-billed cuckoo," Evans said. "We would need surveys for the garter snakes."
Because the Reclamation archaeologist could not attend, so Musser also spoke about the cultural resources.
"A desktop review was inconclusive," she said. "The cultural resources have not been completed for most areas, so surveys would need to be done.
"The archaeological site density is expected to be high, because it's along a waterway," Evans said.
Piper then talked about the diversion alternatives.
He estimated that the Grant County reservoir proposal, using the statistics derived from Caballo Lake State Park, said about 35 visitors can be expected per surface water acre. Because the reservoir would cover about 90 acres, the expected yearly visitation would be around 3,200 visitors annually. He also said a value for fishing is estimated at $84 per visitor.
A man asked where the number came from and if it was how much a person could be expected to spend.
Piper said it was not a spending amount, but the fisherman is getting an $84 benefit. The man responded that the amount could be spiritual.
Piper said it was estimated on the benefit for the user.
For the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission proposal, he said the present value costs would be about $28 million, while the benefits could be in a wide range from $28 to $85 million.
He also spoke about the Deming surface water diversion, also called the Southwest Regional Water Supply project, and said it would be $135 million to more than $300 million in present value.
"We've thrown a lot of information at you," Mary Reece, Reclamation program manager, said. "We thank you for your questions."
A woman stood and walked out onto the gym floor.
"I want to speak to something you won't find on the website," she said. "I was struck by what's missing. The surgeons are talking about what they can do with the body, but the patient hasn't given consent. The doctors promise not to kill her. Most of us here are advocates for the patient. What we love can't be captured in dollar signs. Wake up to what we have here in the Gila River."
Peter Riva, Gila Valley resident, asked: "Is it safe to say the ratio is enhanced by Deming?"
"The more people, the better from an economic standpoint," Piper answered.
"Yes, employment and income," Riva said, to which Piper replied that they had an evaluated for that.
Riva said: "Politics will be the determinant."
He asked Riley: "What about land acquisition?"
Riley replied that it would be by negotiations for property costs.
It will be by negotiations for property costs.
A woman noted that recreation could be fishing or waterskiing or jet skis and motorboats. "How do you deal with other users like hikers and bird watchers?"
Piper replied that for general recreation visits, it could be fishing or boating. "We haven't considered conflicts."
Nancy Kaminski, Grant County resident, said: "You have non-diversion and diversion alternatives. You are asking people to give up the water in their wells and give away the water in the river. Is there any non-diversion alternative for agriculture in the valley?"
Piper said the acre-foot value for agriculture is not necessarily for this value.
"The non-diversion alternatives can be covered with the $66 million," Kamnski said. "I don't see why any cost evaluation will make sense."
"Does cost value include evaporation?" a woman asked.
Riley responded that it would be addressed in the final analysis.
The next article continues and concludes the questions asked and answered.