By Mary Alice Murphy

This Gila Basin Irrigation Commission meeting was the first since Dec. 17, 2020, so the first item of business was to approve the minutes from that meeting.

Chairman Dave Ogilvie said the focus of the meeting was to talk about "where we are."

He noted the design for the Upper Gila Ditch was completed in mid-September, but because a landowner would not sign an easement, as the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer requires, "we moved the diversion downstream onto a parcel of The Nature Conservancy land. It required a new look, so we had to redo the engineering. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy supporting the change, we met in December to discuss the new design. We had to develop a request for proposal and send it out for construction at the diversion site. That was a lengthy process."

He noted that Rebecca Benavidez of the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District had to be involved to make sure the RFP was in compliance with state procurement. "Once that was done, we had the opportunity to put out the RFP. On May 10, 2021, we had a site visit, which was advertised in the Las Cruces Sun-News, the Albuquerque Journal, the Silver City Daily Press and in Arizona. We had 12 different contractors show up. We received four bids and rejected one because it was late. That left us with three. The evaluation committee met June 7. It was a complete process, with two GBIC board members and a Grant County Soil and Water Conservation District member. They evaluated the proposals using a point system. All had to meet the procurement requirements, and one bid fell out because of not enough information. The committee was left with two, and after they were ranked, the members looked at the bids monetarily. Once we knew the amount it became apparent, there were no bids we could accept, because they were far in exceedance of the amount we had available. We had to reject all bids, because of the available funding. The lowest bid was around twice what we had and the highest, 3-4 times what we have. We need to seek additional funds. We will have to go into processes to get additional funding. If we need to change the point of diversion, Telesto (engineering firm) said the paperwork had been submitted and some things could close if we get approved. At the site visit, there were questions from contractors on how they would get materials to the site. We need to look at a different option, and that needs to be worked out before we send out a new RFP. It's not an easy solution. We're talking lots of loads of material, so that's a major issue. One of the other critical things is we are going to have to seek funding for administrative and oversight costs, too. Rebecca has put a lot of hours into this process."

Martha Cooper, representing The Nature Conservancy, said the funding "we got was for buying the rocks."

Ogilvie said the commission needed to figure out how to find funding for administrative costs. "The money we have in the bank is for construction." He made a motion to reimburse the legal notices expenditures for the RFPs, which totaled $291.23, because the commission had no funding in the administrative budget.

A roll call vote was held, and the motion passed, with votes from the Upper Gila and Fort West ditches and with the Upper Gila having proxies for the Gila Hotsprings, Riverside and Grandpa Harper and Gila Farm irrigation associations.

Ogilvie said to move forward the commission's efforts "we will have to look at a lot of places for funding. Martha has secured funding for the large rocks."

Ogilvie said he had talked to Rep. Rebecca Dow to see if she could carry state funding. "Maybe it's an acequias issue. The NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) has talked about funding for efficiency. Maybe we should form an ad hoc group to look for funding."

A motion was made, seconded and approved to authorize a group to look for additional funding for the Fort West and Gila Farm ditches. The approval was unanimous.

With no old business or new business, Ogilvie said: "It's been a long journey. We received the funding in 2014, and we have been pursuing a project ever since. We will try to continue this process."

Before adjournment, he announced the next meeting would take place as called.