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Grant County Water Commission, chooses officers, discusses Colonias funding

The Grant County Water Commission met Feb. 28 in Hurley. The first order of business was to elect officers.

Current Chairman Silver City Town Manager Alex Brown nominated Grant County Commission Chairman Brett Kasten, who was unanimously chosen. Brown turned the meeting over to Kasten.

Kasten then nominated Brown to be vice chairman, and Brown was chosen for the position.

The members discussed the Colonias Infrastructure Fund awards from 2012. Brown said the town had received funding for the Regional Water Plan preliminary engineering report.  The scope of the PER project is to include every municipality that has a water distribution system and to connect them all, including the well field at the Grant County Airport to connect to Hurley and to Bayard. Silver City will connect to Santa Clara. All the water districts, even the smaller ones, such as Arenas Valley, Pinos Altos and Hanover, will connect to the larger systems, which will supplement water to all the distribution systems.

Priscilla Lucero, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments director, said she attended the Tyrone Mutual Domestic Water Association meeting. "They have a major water line that keeps leaking."

She said every resolution from every entity was including in the application. "I have been trying to convey that if we don't have the needs and inadequacies included, we have to get them to the table."

Brown said he has asked Engineers Inc. to do the PER, so "we don't duplicate work that has already been done, such as by Hurley. We want to just size the pipelines for the region. Silver City is fiscal agent for this Water Commission project. It is not a Silver City project."

Lucero said a few of the water associations also already have PERs, such as Arenas Valley and Hanover. "They may need to update them. Another Colonias award for Hanover was supposed to be lumped in with Silver City's, but it wasn't."

She said Tyrone is in great need, but may not have sufficient money to look at its infrastructure. "We need to look at funding for immediate urgencies."

Brown said he was willing to set up meetings with each individual water association to discover the needs.

Lucero said the deadline for the next round of Colonias funding is March 15. "It would behoove this commission to look at the timing and apply for certain phasing for the regional water plan. After this there are only three more funding cycles, at which point the Colonias Infrastructure Fund sunsets."

Discussion ensued on Phase 1 of the Hurley 2013 Colonias Fund application.

"We have the PER for the transmission line from the well field to Hurley," Brown said. "Hurley would like to submit an application for engineering and design for the transmission line and update it to the correct size line to benefit the whole regional system."

Lucero said another "whereas" was needed in the resolution to say it is Phase 1 of the regional water system. "Or is it premature?"

"I think the intent of the resolution is to work on the regional water system," Brown said. "We should list all the beneficiaries of Phase I."

Lucero concurred, saying, in the process last year, "the more colonias benefitting from a project, the better."

Bayard Mayor Charles Kelly asked for a summary in 15 words or less what the resolution was about.

"Phase I is to do engineering and design for the transmission line from the airport to Hurley," Brown said.

The commissioner members approved the resolution with the added beneficiaries.
During public input, Allyson Siwik, director of the Gila Conservation Coalition, which is made up of the Gila Resources Information Project, of which she is also director; the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance; and the Center for Biological Diversity, said the mission of the GCC is to protect the free flow of the Gila River.

She said the groups have been dealing with water issues ever since the Arizona Water Settlements Act was signed into law in 2004. "We are supportive of the regional water distribution project. We see the merits. We have been concerned about Hurley, with only six years left to develop a cost-effective water project. We are also supportive of it through Colonias funding and through the AWSA process."

During Commission input, Hurley Mayor Edward Encinas said he is glad the town is getting support on the project. "We are grateful to have so many behind us."

"I appreciate the confidence you have put in me to be chairman of this water commission," Kasten said.

The next meeting of the Grant County Water Commission is tentatively slated for 4 p.m., Thursday, March 21, at the Bayard Community Center.

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