NM CAP Entity holds workshop and special meeting 081419

[Editor's Note: This portion will cover the special meeting that followed a long workshop to discuss the business plan. A much longer and later article will cover the main points of the workshop.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, took place immediately following an extended workshop, where members commented on, discussed and added items to the draft business plan, being developed by Stantec Inc.

The first item of business on the agenda for the special meeting was to approve or disapprove the afore-mentioned business plan. Because the draft will require revisions, the item was tabled until the members could review a clean, revised copy of the business plan.

The members will approve or disapprove the revised version at their regular Sept. 3, 2019 meeting. The recommendation was made to provide the members with the revised copy by Aug. 26, so they and Stantec would have a week to review and make adjustments to the document.

Under new business, CAP Entity Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez handed out two copies of a proposed letter to be sent to the Secretary of the Interior requesting an extension on the Record of Decision for the New Mexico Unit. One copy was written by Gutierrez and one by CAP Entity Attorney Pete Domenici Jr. "I felt we should be more forward and address our authority and why we are seeking the extension. The Bureau of Reclamation is not meeting its timeline for the environmental impact statement."

Ty Bays, representing the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District asked for language to state that the purpose of the proposed action for a New Mexico Unit is to enhance existing agricultural systems. "I also request you take out the language, higher-value crops."

Domenici said he is comfortable with the shorter letter, proposed by Gutierrez, but would like the paragraph with estimated costs included in the letter. "When we talked to them before, they were interested in the economics of the project, so we need to have the costs in the letter."

Howard Hutchinson, representing the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, thought it would be worthwhile to point out that the six weeks of government shutdown earlier this year impacted the NEPA drafting, because other cooperating agencies were not available to consult.

Jim Massengill, representing the city of Deming, asked that the paragraph describing the brief history of the NM CAP Entity should also be a part of the letter.

Bays asked if the members could get a draft of the letter before the next meeting.

Domenici said: "Yes, and we have to get it approved at the next meeting. I would appreciate any comments. I have tried to set up a meeting with Interior, but I have had no response. This letter has to be very clear that we are requesting an extension. The letter will go out under prior authorization of the board."

Joe Runyan, representing the Gila Farm Irrigation Association, said he felt the longer version, which had no "fluff, is more forceful."

Entity Chairwoman Darr Shannon requested members send their comments to Gutierrez to be incorporated into the letter.

Hutchinson said the letter will not be read by the secretary, David Bernhardt, but by staff. "In my experience, they like letters that are short and to the point. We need all these points, but maybe we can edit them down. Email is actually a better throughput. When stamped mail arrives in D.C., it goes through a chemical screening, which delays delivery, so I suggest a hard copy and email."

In the executive director report and member roundtable, Domenici said that Gutierrez had talked to the secretary of the interior's staff and "I talked to legal staff. We both came away, first of all, finding out that the secretary likes his decisional space. When you requested a letter of support from Reclamation, legal staff told me the secretary does not want any recommendations but wants to make his own decision."

He also said that in speaking with Reclamation, they said that because the agency is a part of Interior "we don't them him what to do."

Domenici said the latest on the Interstate Stream Commission is that their first meeting with the new members of the commission will take place Aug. 26. "They will try to hold their second meeting in September down here, either here in Silver City or in Luna County."

Hutchinson said he plans to generate an email to those tasked with preparing for the October Interim Water and Natural Resources Committee meeting to be held in Silver City. "We can put together our comments and Anthony can get us on the agenda."

The special meeting was adjourned.