This is the final part of the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission meeting of March 20.
After a resolution on the Arizona Water Settlements Act planning process amended proposal from Deming was approved, Grant County Commissioner Ron Hall said the county commissioners were being torn on the issue by different groups and situations.
"Not only Senator John Arthur Smith (is proposing to send Gila River water to Las Cruces)," Hall said, "but also Sen. Joseph Cervantes (who represents Las Cruces) has proposed a bill for $100 million. He's shopping for water. We have to use this water in such a way that we keep it in the area. I told Javier (Diaz, Luna County commissioner) that I hate to pipe the water to Deming. I suggested injecting it into the aquifer below the mine's well field.
"(Deming Office of the State Engineer Manager Charles) 'Tink' Jackson said the way to keep the water from Las Cruces was to keep the pipeline at four to six inches," Hall said. "We voted on our resolution and no more than got it out of our mouths than we read the amended proposal. The pipeline was 24 inches from Mangas Creek storage to Hurley, then 14-inches to Deming. I felt like we'd been lied to, with the governor from Las Cruces and Smith representing part of Doña Ana County."
He said that is the reason he has come to reconsider the resolution.
"We are getting our own map together," Hall said. "We got scared. We're talking about this community (Gila), Silver City and the county. We don't exist without the water, so we're working on our figures.
"The Gila River is not a free-flowing river," Hall pointed out. "There is a diversion to Bill Evans Lake."
He said his main concern is to know that Deming has a right to some of the water, "to be fair, but we don't want to run the fox through the chicken pen."
"I really think the contract is what counts," Hall said. "The size of the pipeline doesn't matter. We have to slow down and make decisions for the future. Right now, we as commissioners, have to make the right one. It's worth millions of dollars and the lives of our residents. We have to make sure we are protected."
He said Deming would be able to pay for the water because it can draw industry to the county with the Interstate highway. "The Mogollon diversion would take care of your needs."
"Our project would also have a diversion aspect," Gila Basin Irrigation Commission Chairman Dave Ogilvie said. In reply to a question, he said the diversion would likely "take care of us."
"The part of the Deming project I like is the design to move water out of the Mogollon Creek storage to keep the ecology going," Hall said.
Allen Campbell, GBIC member, said as the representative of the ditch near Gila Hot Springs, "I get no advantage. I have a couple of kids and grandkids, and I hope they will come back. We are trying to protect the agricultural communities. Deming is an agricultural community. Agricultural water usually goes to municipalities. I don't want to see that happen."
"The beauty of using the water in agriculture is that it stores more water than we can use," Campbell continued. "Irrigation restores the aquifer. We have to pull together to get this done. Store it with agriculture first, then the economic system will work."
"Say no one uses the 4,000 acre-feet of water allocated to the San Francisco," Hall asked. "Will it go to Arizona?"
"The San Francisco Basin has no proposal to use the water, so in concept it is not being spoken for," Ogilvie said. "(Interstate Stream Commission Deputy Director) Craig Roepke's comment said it opens the door to use it on the Gila. This water, for it to be utilized, we have to have a mechanism to store and divert it. A lot of acres here could be put to use, because of all the fallow land."
Mary Burton Riseley, Gila Valley resident, said she has a concern about the constraints of the $66 million, allocated for water supply projects. "Could we use $6 million a year for projects? I worry there is hesitation to spend money on good projects, because we want to save it and apply it to a diversion project to build infrastructure."
Topper Thorpe, GBIC member and an Interstate Stream Commission member, said he expects that will happen. "Then the question is which is worthy to spend money on. There is $66 million for other projects and $62 million, specifically for a storage unit. If there is a decision to put together a project or projects, there may be a decision where the total money will go, because it is the best investment for the future."
He said a small amount of a few hundred thousand dollars has or is being spent on studies.
"Out of the 16 proposals, only three are diversions?" Burton Riseley asked, and was told yes.
Hall pointed out that Deming is asking applicants to pull projects that are put together.
Thorpe said no proposals had been pulled from consideration. "If we agree on a 'master project,' some have said they would pull their projects."
Mary Reece of the Phoenix Office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Reclamation is doing economics on all the proposals.
Thorpe said the ISC has requested staff to combine pieces of many proposals that could come together for a master project. "Our GBIC plan is two parts—storage and permanent diversions."
"Unfortunately no one from this group attended the Rosgen workshop when he was here," Burton Riseley said. "His system of permanent diversion structures is a good one."
"We have a dry year already," Don Stailey, GBIC member, said, "and it looks like we're going to have another dry year. Others want this water. It bothers me that we've worked for years and in two months, legislators can do what they want. The longer we wait, the more opportunities they have to get the water."
"Our hope is the Interior Department and a good contract," Hall said.
"It will be you working with the ISC for the contract," Reece said.
Linda Stailey said she appreciated commissioner Hall being at the meeting.
The next GBIC meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at the Gila Senior Center.