Editor's Note: The Interstate Stream Commission Quarterly Public Meeting will be divided into several articles. This is the first of a series of four articles. Also note that some of the presentations were lengthy and can likely be better understood from the http://www.nmawsa.org website reports. A brief summary of each report will be presented in the articles, but most of the report will center on questions and answers. Many asked questions and most were unknown to this editor.

The Interstate Stream Commission held it Arizona Water Settlements Act quarterly public meeting at 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 13, at the Cliff High School gymnasium.

According to Reece Fullerton, facilitator, 147 people were in attendance.

"Welcome to everyone," Fullerton said. "We're glad you're here. I would like to introduce Lela Hunt, the public information officer for the Office of the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission."

"I am here on behalf of State Engineer Scott Verhines and Interstate Stream Commission Director Esteván Lopez. We welcome you," Hunt said.

The first speaker was ISC Deputy Director Craig Roepke.

"I want to give you a quick run through of the presentation I gave to the Interim Water and Natural Resources Committee Oct. 21," Roepke said.

Note: the presentation can be downloaded at http://nmawsa.org/meetings/copy_of_material-for-october-21-2013-public-meeting/october-21-2013-presentation-to-the-interim-water-and-natural-resources-committee/view

"The ISC has allocated $2.845 million for fiscal year 2014 for studies and appraisal level work on proposals submitted by stakeholders," Roepke said.
"Nine elements have funding allocated to them. Element 6, with almost half the funding, is for ecological studies, so as to do no harm to the Gila River."

He said 22 studies are in progress or completed.

"In the 2004, Arizona Water Settlements Act, for those of you who are new to these meetings, provides an average annual 14,000 acre-feet of water to the southwest New Mexico region and up to $128 million in non-reimbursable funding," he continued.

Roepke also read the  ISC Gila Policy to the group:
"The Interstate Stream Commission recognizes the unique and valuable
ecology of the Gila Basin. In considering any proposal for water utilization
under Section 212 of the Arizona Water Settlements Act, the Commission
will apply the best available science to fully assess and mitigate the
ecological impacts on Southwest New Mexico, the Gila River, its tributaries
 and associated riparian corridors, while also considering the historic uses of
and future demands for water in the Basin and the traditions, cultures and 
customs affecting those uses."

"The ISC staff is charged to do all three things at once," Roepke said.

"The minimum bypass flows are different for each month, but the maximum that can be diverted at any time is 350 cubic feet per second," he explained. "We have made it clear we want to leave at least 150 cfs in the river at all times, so only a portion above that 150 can be taken up to the 350 cfs."

He showed a photo of a dry stretch of the Gila River, and asked: "Why does the river dry at 37 cfs? One ditch has rights to take 20 cfs, and the next ditch down can take 17 cfs. It dries below the diversion. Irrigators have the senior rights to the water."

"We want to protect the environment, protect water needs and uses, and the senior rights," Roepke said. "It has been proposed that when the flows are high to take the excess water and store it. Historically, the area could have taken 7 percent of the water in the river on only 10 percent of the days."

He also commented that some proposals made by stakeholders want to take the dead and dying riparian areas and turn them into a healthy bosque.

All of these studies that have at least reached draft form can be seen on the nmawsa.org website.

He opened the session to questions.

Terry Timme, Silver City resident, said: "You didn't address exchange costs."

Roepke replied: "Let the economists speak to that."

" Your presentation began with diversion," Kyle Johnson, Gila Valley resident, accused. "Your presentation began with diversion. That's where the ISC is coming from. We saw the other alternatives briefly."

"It looks like a plan to take water every month," Mary Burton Riseley, Gila Valley resident," said. "Will that have an adverse effect on groundwater recharge?"

"It might, but if you take water out of the river, and as in one proposal, put it into the alluvial aquifer, it may recharge the groundwater and probably very quickly put it back into the river."

"You chose 1965 for your example," a male speaker said. "How can that be an average year if now we're in drought?"

"We looked at the historical record from 1920-2013," Roepke replied. "1965 was representative of a mean year."

"Doesn't at least 30,000 acre-feet of water have to be in San Carlos Reservoir before we can take any water?," a man inquired.

"There is less than a 2 percent impact in a five-year period when New Mexico is prohibited from diverting," Roepke said. "And if it happens more often, the parties will get together and adjust downward the required level."

Fullerton asked everyone to sign in.
Don't forget to sign in.

Craig Hoover of Bohannon Huston Inc., an Albuquerque civil engineering firm, presented the drat engineering report on AWSA diversion and storage proposals, which can be found at:

"Our preliminary engineering report objectives were to evaluate options that would provide 65,000 or more acre-feet of water storage," Hoover said. "We walked nine canyons—Spar, Maldonado, Winn, Pope, Sycamore, Dix, Cherokee and Schoolhouse—to evaluate soils, faults and geologic features. Cherokee and Schoolhouse had faults and were eliminated from our study.

"Our recommendation for the category 2 diversion is a Coanda screen, where the water, fish and debris go over the screen, with the water flowing through the screen to the conveyances," he said.

In the middle of the Bohannon Huston presentation, Kyle Johnson, Gila Valley resident interrupted with a comment on who would use the water and when.

"It's a conflict of priorities when you make one recommendation, the diversion and storage, at the expense of the others, the non-diversion alternatives," Johnson said.

"We were tasked to look at the options to divert," Hoover answered. "It is an operational decision to recommend."

"The question as I understand it, if the irrigator wants it and when he wants it and who gets it," Roepke said. "That will be contracted through the Secretary of the Interior, the state and the users.

"Bohannon Huston was hired to do engineering studies," Roepke said. "Please let him finish his presentation."

Riseley asked: "How does a Coanda screen shut off at 350 cfs?"

"The screen slices the water, so it can't accept more than a certain amount," Hoover explained. "You can set a hydraulic gate so above it keeps flowing. Once the amount is exceeded, it flows over and continues down the river.

"If you put water in the canyons, what will protect from floods and what protects the people below the storage?" a male questioner asked.

"We did an evaluation for that," Hoover said. "There is not only a dam for storage, but also a small one above it for flood control and sediment to attenuate that.

"We recommend 2B, with 5,000 acre-feet of storage in the upper part of the valley and 65,000 at Winn Canyon," Hoover said.

Alternative 2B consists of a diversion at elevation 4,695, with pipe from the diversion through a tunnel to Junction 5 to Winn Canyon, with storage at Winn, Pope, Sycamore and Dix canyons, at a cost of $326 million, a storage of 68,686 acre-feet, annual operation and maintenance costs of $338,250 and cost per acre foot of $4,743.

The information can be found in Section IX, page 52 of 55 of the report on the nmawsa.org website..

"If stored at Winn and the canyons below, if there were only 10 feet of water depth at Winn, it could not provide irrigation water to farms above the diversion," Hoover explained. "But if it is more than 10 feet deep to full, it could provide irrigation to the upper farms. Even at 10 feet, it would serve 90 percent of the Cliff-Gila Valley."

The next article will cover the questions and answers for this presentation.

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