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The Gila/San Francisco Water Commission met in regular session Tuesday morning.

Gerald Schultz, representing New Mexico Resource Conservation and Development activities, asked what the status was on absenteeism from the commission meetings.

Chairman Vance Lee said it had been taken care of since the last meeting, with letters sent out to those not attending.

Under new business, Lee addressed the need for representation on the recovery team for the spikedace and loach minnow.

He reported that Anthony Gutierrez, representing Grant County on GSFWC, had been named to the team.

Gutierrez reported the first meetings would be held Oct. 29 in Springerville, Ariz., but he had no other details.

"I'm looking forward to representing Grant County and the GSFWC," he said.

The second item of new business was to discuss support of a Regional Water Plan resolution.

Tom Bates, vice chairman and representing Deming and the Luna Soil and Water Conservation District, said in the members' packets should be a draft of the resolution to support state legislation allocating $400,000 to update the regional water plans for the 16 regions in the state.  The resolution includes a recurring budget. Approval of the allocation would give the $400,000 to the Interstate Stream Commission to support the updates to four regional plans a year.

"I encourage you to take the resolution to your entities as well and get their support," Bates said. "Deming has already approved the resolution."

Schultz said he and Bates received letters about the issue, because they were on the previous committee to update the water plan. "Each time, we have had wide support of the plan."

Lee said he had received some interest for having GSFWC to head up the updating for its region.

Bates said almost all the state's regional plans need updating, with some being older than the southwest New Mexico region. "Our update was in 2008."

The resolution was approved.

Under old business, Lee asked if anything new had come out of the ISC input committee that is reviewing projects to use the Arizona Water Settlements Act 14,000 annual average acre-feet of water from the Gila and San Francisco rivers and the $66 million up to $128 million.

Gutierrez, who represents Grant County on the input committee, said the group had a meeting two weeks ago in Glenwood.

"We had a presentation from Catron County, with the changes they want to make the project better." Gutierrez said. "The ISC was receptive. They also requested an increase of funding for watershed treatment, but they thought the county could come up with additional funding from other sources. The next meeting of the input committee is in November."

Lee asked when the next public regional meeting would take place. Gutierrez did not know if a date had been set.

Billy Webb, representing the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, who also attended the input committee meeting, said Catron County asked for changes because of the Whitewater-Baldy Fire this summer.

"The fire did a lot of the work that needed to be done," Webb said. "One of the reasons we're asking for more funding is to help the Forest Service in the re-seeding process. Glenwood Ranger Pat Morrison received information that the ISC had gotten the funding and the federal government would match the money to finish the project."

Gutierrez said Catron County also introduced the concept of infiltration galleries because ash has sealed some of the ditches. The county proposed using infiltration galleries and pipelines to be used for irrigation.

"The funding is coming from the ISC, not the AWSA funding," Gutierrez clarified.

Janice Kiehne of the 1898 Luna Ditch Association said there were questions about why most of the ditches being considered were around Reserve and Glenwood. She pointed out that the Pleasanton, Sunset and New Model ditches were covered in a different project being reviewed.

Lee said the lining of ditches would come from AWSA funding.

"My understanding at the meeting is that projects from Catron County were watershed treatment projects that hadn't been accepted for AWSA funding," Kiehne said. "So they came back and revamped the irrigation projects because of the effects of fire on the ditches."

Don Stailey, representing the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission, said those on the Gila River in the Gila Valley have had the same problems with ash in some places. "We have two feet of ash in the ditches."

Lee echoed that the Virden Valley also had ash in the ditches.

Gutierrez said Catron County is considering infiltration galleries because they are more efficient and do not require continual maintenance of ditch systems. He suggested that others who have ditch problems should contact Catron County, "because they have their act together."

Kiehne pointed out that discussion took place on how the systems would help downstream users.

During public input, Schultz reported that he visited his home state, North Dakota, and in spite of "all the snow and the floods, much of the state is in extreme drought, but other areas are under water, including the farm I grew up on."

He also expressed that he did not think a lot of people are using the nmawsa.org website.

Schultz said he attended three events, the Water Resources Research Institute 57th annual conference, which had the theme: Hard Choices, Adaptive Management. He listed 15 points made at the conference. They included an acceleration in water use research, a need to conduct a region-wide water inventory, water policy goals, statistics on New Mexico water use, a need to do a better job of getting water to the consumer, a need for more and better planning, water re-use is gathering importance, acequias have a long history of natural observations and water-sharing customs, good water policy equals good economic and social policy, a need to protect and restore rivers and streams, hydrology is changing in a changing climate, the state does not have enough water to meet existing demands, and increasing gaps between demands and supply.

He also attended a screening of Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West, a film developed by Robert Redford.

Schultz also took part in the annual meeting of the New Mexico Acequia Association.

Webb said the deadline for making comments on jaguar critical habitat is Oct. 19.

Lee asked Archie Payne of the village of Virden if he had ever seen the Gila dry in October before. Payne said it was the first time he had seen it dry in October.

"It is dry in spots," Lee said. "I know the drought has a lot to do with it. It is important to stay engaged in water issues."

Webb said a council of soil and water conservation districts has formed, so they have more clout in numbers.

The next GSFWC meeting is slated for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Silver City at the Grant County Administration Center.

Live from Silver City

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