The Gila/San Francisco Water Commission discussed at great length a resolution to support an Arizona Water Settlements Act proposal to form a four-county regional water supply system.

Richard McInturff, Deming city manager, talked about a generic version of the resolution, and then it was discovered that the one sent in the packets to the members was an old version.

He explained that in the paragraphs, beginning with Whereas, the wording Gila/San Francisco Water Commission should be inserted, as well as in the Now, therefore…

Dolores Dominguez, Grant County ordinance officer, pointed out that members could vote only on a final version.

Anthony Gutierrez, representing Grant County on the GSFWC said he had expressed concerns about a pipeline going to Deming, "because it gets the water closer to Las Cruces. Water in Las Cruces is of concern to the county commission, the municipality and the residents of Doña Ana County. 'Tink' Jackson (of the Deming Office of the State Engineer) at the February meeting said the size of the pipe could be limited to prevent the transfer to Las Cruces. The Grant County Commission doesn't agree with a large pipeline to Deming."

McInturff said the original conceptual plan had a 36-inch-pipe. "We worked with Daniel B. Stephens & Associates and they did the sizing. I couldn't tell you how much it would carry. Our expectation was that Deming would use 2,000 to 3,000 acre-feet out of the 10,000 allocated from the Gila. We would surely not subscribe to all of it. That decision will be 10 to 15 years down the road. By the time the Bureau of Reclamation and the Interstate Stream Commissions works through the iterations of the proposals and modifies this plan, it will be significantly different. It's still an evolving process."

"I understand that this commission supports a regional project and diversion," Gutierrez said, "but this resolution is specific to supporting the Deming project."

McInturff said, as an alternative, the GSFWC or county commission could address their own ideas in their resolution. Gutierrez said Grant County had already done that.

McInturff said the proposal, as amended, had a 24-inch pipeline through Silver City and the Mining District, changing to 14-inches south of Hurley. Two storages were suggested in the proposal—an approximate 30,000 acre-feet of storage on Mangas Creek and about 5,000 on Mogollon Creek. The one on Mogollon is specifically for agricultural and environmental needs to supply water as needed to keep the river wet. The Mangas diversion and storage would allow some water to go to Virden. "There is still 25,000 acre-feet of storage available for the San Francisco River or for Virden. We are trying to address diverse needs. The other aspect I like is the economic impact of recreation and sustainability on the Mangas."

Tom Bates, GSFWC chairman, asked how many other entities have already supported the resolution. McInturff named off Hidalgo County, the Sunset Irrigation District in Virden, Luna County and Deming, and Catron County and Reserve have plans to address it.

Gutierrez said the proposal, when considering cost benefit, referred to potentially storing water in Grant County until needed in Luna County and Deming. "Would they be receptive to recharge of the Mimbres aquifer in Grant County? We already have infrastructure. Why build another pipeline?"

McInturff said recharge through injection of water has not been shown to be very effective. "If the water is injected upstream from the mine well field, it would be taken back to the mine. We would prefer injection closer to Deming, so the mine doesn't take the water.  Also, it is inefficient, because it uses energy to pump water into the aquifer and then energy to pump it out."

Gutierrez said: "However, the potential would be for clean water."

Vance Lee, representing Hidalgo County, said the proposal shows delivery of 10,000 acre-feet of water as far as Hurley. "That would be in direct difference with what Hidalgo County proposes. I was under the assumption the water would be in Mangas and Mogollon creeks and in Schoolhouse Canyon."

"The project does not have Schoolhouse, because all of it is on Forest Service land," McInturff said. "We went in favor of Mangas, because the land is mostly private."

Lee pointed out that environmental issues exist with the Mangas location, which are not present in Schoolhouse Canyon.

McInturff said the Mogollon Creek location would support the spikedace, loach minnow and southwest willow flycatcher endangered species.

"I envision when the ISC and Reclamation look at all three diversion projects, they will take some from each," McInturff said. "I kind of hope that. Whatever we do needs to benefit as many as possible."

Janice Kiehne, representing the 1890 Luna Irrigation Association in Catron County, pointed out that in the state, the most contentious issue is if water is transferred out of its basin and region.

McInturff said the AWSA set the water up for the four counties, so it would not be exported out of the region.

Kiehne asked if the 4,000 acre-feet out of the San Francisco and 10,000 acre-feet out of the Gila would be assured.

"The water is likely to be oversubscribed," McInturff said. "The named water authority will have to bring it down to the amount allowed. If we don't do something internally, the water will go to Las Cruces."

"If the water goes to Deming, will it be used in Doña Ana County or ultimately for the compact between New Mexico and Texas," Kiehne asked.

"If we subscribe to the water in the four counties," McInturff said, "it's not going anywhere. If we don't, it will leave."

Javier Diaz, Luna County commissioner said the overall concern should be what happens to the water. "Water is going to come out of the river, but if we agree to keep it in this region, it will stay here. Virden will get some; Sunset Canal will get some; Catron and Grant counties will get some. Luna County will not benefit as much as Hidalgo. That doesn't bother me, because it keeps the water in the region. If it means cutting down the size of the pipeline, I think we will agree. We don't want it to go to Las Cruces. If we create a contract, water will not leave the area."

"I agree totally," Gutierrez said. "Ask your engineer if a 14-inch pipeline delivers 2,500 acre-feet of water annually."

"At high pressure, it would," Diaz said. "If you inject it, God will clean it up, and we will take out clean water."

Diaz moved to accept the resolution support in spirit.

Dominguez noted that the item on the agenda was a letter of a support, not a resolution.

Craig Roepke of the Interstate Stream Commission, who was in attendance, noted two things. "It will be a contract, which will designate how much water goes where, when and until. The size of the pipe is moot. Whoever signs the contract is obligated, whether it is being used a recharge or not. As far as moving to Las Cruces, until the contract runs out, it is not an issue."

He told a tale of two cities. In 1957, Albuquerque was advertising that it sat on an aquifer 10 times the size of Lake Superior and there was no way it would ever run out of water. At the same time, engineers said the water level was dropping. So in 1960, Albuquerque started paying for the San Juan-Chama project. It didn't take a drop until two years ago. Every time engineers checked, the aquifer was getting lower than they thought and was of a lesser quality.

The other cities involved in his comparison were the towns of Tucumcari and Portales. In 1964, they had a chance to sign onto the Ute Reservoir, but decided they had enough water. Today they are buying up water rights and there is still not enough water. They are attempting to spend for a pipeline.  

"They see their aquifers dropping in Silver City, the Mining District and Deming," Roepke said. "It behooves the governments to work together. If the communities would like it, the ISC would hold a charette for people interested in using this water."

The next article will complete coverage of the meeting.

Live from Silver City

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