AP NEWS

New Mexico officials break ground on pipeline project

March 3, 2019

CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — A multimillion-dollar project aimed at shoring up drinking water supplies for communities in eastern New Mexico is moving ahead after decades of planning and meetings.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports the pipeline project broke ground last week.

The $28.6 million project has been a focus of the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority since 2016, when it completed the phase 1 of a $14 million intake structure at the Ute Reservoir in Quay County.

That facility was named for Darrel Bostwick, who had supported the Ute Pipeline Project since 1963. It was at least that long ago when officials noted declining levels in the Ogallala aquifer and perceived the need for a new long-term water source.

Ute Reservoir was completed in 1963, with the intention of storing water downstream communities that rely on the Ogallala. It wasn’t until 2009 that Congress approved the pipeline project in the face of what eventually became an unprecedented drought in New Mexico.

The project aims to ease the strain on the Ogallala aquifer along the Texas-New Mexico border by tapping into Ute Reservoir.

Critics have said the cost will outweigh the benefits as runoff that feeds the reservoir could be uncertain as drought persists.

“I’m just excited to see pipe finally go into the ground,” Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority secretary and Curry County Commissioner Robert Thornton said. If things stay on schedule, he said, that pipeline can be functional for local service by early next year.

Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority Chairman and Clovis Mayor David Lansford called it “one of the largest infrastructure projects” he’s seen.

All told, the Ute Water Project will include 150 miles of conveyance pipelines serving ENMWUA member communities of Clovis, Portales, Elida, Grady, Melrose and Texico, as well as Curry and Roosevelt counties.

Officials say the pipeline is expected to supply 16,450-acre feet annual supply of renewable surface water.

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Information from: The Eastern New Mexico News, http://www.easternnewmexiconews.com