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GSFWC discusses input into ISC scopes of work for AWSA projects

The Gila/San Francisco Water Commission met Tuesday morning in Silver City, but was two votes short of a quorum.

Chairman Vance Lee said the Interstate Stream Commission has held two meetings with a committee of stakeholders chosen to give input on projects to utilize the funding of $66 million up to $128 million and an average 14,000 acre-feet of water as allocated to the southwestern four counties of New Mexico by the 2004 Arizona Water Settlements Act.

The goal of the ISC, with input from the committee, is to develop scopes of work to study and flesh out the proposals made by stakeholders in the area.

"The information on the proposals and the minutes from the input meetings are posted at nmawsa.org," Lee said.



Anthony Gutierrez, GSFWC member, as well as being a member of the input committee, said the ISC has taken the approach of trying to answer questions through scopes of work.

"One, around the Grant County reservoir proposal, will determine the impacts or benefits to the Santa Clara and Bayard well fields," Gutierrez said. "We would like to see reuse of Bayard water and how it will fit in with the Silver City proposal for a regional water system. Mayor (Charles) Kelly feels the reservoir will impact Bayard's well fields. The ISC wants information that will prove Kelly's issue or get him on board. If we can combine projects as regional, only one scope of work is needed."

Lee said a similar process is happening with the diversion projects from Hidalgo County and the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission.

Gutierrez pointed out that it is not combination of the projects, but a scope of work to determine what effects diversions would have.

Tom Bates, representing Luna County and the Luna Soil and Water Conservation District, said it was interesting to him that the Deming proposal of taking water from the Gila River and piping it to Deming was not being considered.

Lawrence Brookey, representing the city of Deming, said such water would be expensive to get to Deming. "We just want to make sure to keep the water in New Mexico."

Lee said the diversion entities met, and the main difference between the Hidalgo County and the GBIC proposals was how and where the water would be impounded. He said ISC Deputy Director Craig Roepke's idea was to answer questions about the proposals.

Bates, who is an alternate to the input committee meetings, said the ISC had set aside $1,5 million toward the scopes of work.

"The facilitators don't want the public at the meetings, so the input representatives don't play to the public," Bates said.

He reported Roger Patrick gave a report on which crops use the least amount of water and make the most profit. "Stan Jones (farmer in Virden) said: 'We know what works and we've been doing it for years. For instance, they were pushing onions, but both who tried it went bankrupt, because a farmer can't do a crop for several years without a profit.'"

Lee said a volatile market for vegetables is always a concern. "Also they have a huge investment in equipment. The initial investment is a factor."

Gutierrez said a contractor developed preliminary scopes of work, and the input group took them and asked the questions that needed to be answered.

An AWSA public meeting will be held July 24, at 1 p.m. at the Deming Conference Center, Gutierrez said. The private input meeting will be held the next day. "The ISC is looking for input from the public on the preliminary scopes."

Under new business, Lee said the commission was going to ask for a resolution to get the left-over funding from Hooker Dam projects be transferred from the Black Range Resource Conservation and Development District, where it has remained for years. Gerald Schultz, affiliated with the New Mexico RC&D, had requested the transfer. However, he recommended tabling it, because "of hurdles to overcome and that he was doing research on the issue."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has named the members of the recovery team for the spikedace and loach minnow.

"We should be represented on the stakeholder team, because the final rule noted that the AWSA could affect the recovery," Lee said. "I will write a letter recommending one of us be on the team. Who would like to be that person?"

Gutierrez offered to represent the commission.

Topper Thorpe, ISC and GBIC member, said, at the recent GBIC meeting, Roepke had pointed out that no hydrologist was on the technical team, but mainly biologists. He was concerned that a hydrologist should be on the team if it considers low flow requirements.

"For the most part, no one with a vested or economic interest in the river is on the team as a stakeholder," Thorpe said. "Craig said the ISC asked for representation on the technical team, and the verbal reply was: 'No.'

"What is boils down to, is if there is to be any change or addition to the teams, it will be as the result of outside pressure," Thorpe said.

Mary Reese of the Phoenix office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced that, as of last week, the comment period on critical habitat for the Southwest willow flycatcher had been re-opened for 60 days.

Lee addressed the chronic problem of lack of a quorum. "Basically, since the projects were turned over to the ISC, we haven't had a quorum. I'll research the bylaws and come to you with the idea that if an entity misses so many meetings, it will be dropped. It's not fair to those of us who still want to work on the issues never to have a quorum."

Bill Webb, representing the San Francisco SWCD said he had attended a meeting in Ruidoso, where the hydrology study in the southern Sacramento Mountains was discussed. It was determined that any recharge of the aquifer came from the upper reaches of the watershed as water or snowmelt. "It would be basically the same here. They have started another study by thinning 500 acres of private forest to compare to 500 acres of nearby unthinned forest. Monitoring gauges will show the differences in water output, if any."
Lee asked if anyone had heard talk about the burned areas.

"I've beat up on it at every meeting I have attended," Gutierrez said. "It's a great opportunity, because there are severe, moderate and light burned areas."

Webb also said the SFSWCD has joined other water districts to oppose the wildlands proposal to set aside 600,000 acres as a national monument in the Organ Mountains, because several private ranchers would be put out of business.

"We are also going to put pressure on the Gila National Forest to let us be in on any federal planning that may affect us," Webb said. ""We'll keep pushing."

Thorpe said that, at the most recent ISC meeting, the commissioners discussed the AWSA scopes of work, as well as other scopes of work through the state.

"The ISC and the Office of the State Engineer are concerned about flooding from the burned areas.," he said. "They are prepared to help with monitoring in any way they can. As we progress, we will get a better idea of how the AWSA funding will be used."

Lee said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was in the Virden area Tuesday and Wednesday, with a trip to Grant County on Thursday, to discuss flooding.

Gutierrez confirmed the visit and said it was by request of the governor's office for the Corps to be involved in the possible effects of flooding.

Lee read from a four-page summary of excerpts from "Border Water Source of Conflict and Cooperation," which appeared in "Arroyo," published by Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona. Schultz, who was unable to attend the meeting, sent copies of to be passed out and put into the record.

The next meeting of the GSFWC will be held at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 21, at the Grant County Administration Center.

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