U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced that the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Supply Project will receive a total of $4.347 million from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) fiscal year 2019 budget. The project, when complete, will deliver a reliable water supply to Cannon Air Force Base, Clovis, Grady, Elida, Melrose, Portales, Texico, and Roosevelt and Curry counties. An additional $7.65 million will be allocated to other projects along the Rio Grande, for Isleta Pueblo, and the Carlsbad area.
In October, Udall and Heinrich requested that BOR allocate additional funding to the Eastern New Mexico water project, along with other New Mexico water priorities, from an additional $99 million discretionary fund they secured through this year’s appropriations bill. The additional funding for the Eastern New Mexico water project will help complete construction of a pipeline to Cannon Air Force Base and Clovis. The $4.347 appropriation represents the largest single-year award from BOR to the Eastern New Mexico water project, bringing total federal funding to the project to over $20 million.
“Adequate water supplies are key to sustaining and developing in the arid Southwest, and a necessity in Eastern New Mexico, with the Ogallala aquifer in decline,” Udall said. “There is no wasting time getting the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System fully funded, fully functional, and making water deliveries. The additional funds from BOR help secure a dependable water source for 39,000 residents of Clovis and for our military personnel at Cannon Air Force Base. With the recent discovery of PFOS contamination in groundwater wells on and nearby the base, this project to deliver clean, reliable water for the community is even more important. While the Eastern New Mexico water project was not originally included in the president’s budget, I worked hard on the Senate Appropriations Committee to ensure it was part of the funding for rural water projects around the country. I’m pleased that the BOR recognized supplying Eastern New Mexico and Cannon Air Force Base with a clean, reliable water supply is a priority, and proud we ended up with the largest amount of annual funding to date.”
“Access to adequate clean and affordable water means that cities in eastern New Mexico can bustle with activity, our farmers and ranchers can grow local food, and Cannon Air Force Base can continue to play a vital role in protecting our national security,” Heinrich said. “We have known for decades that pumping unlimited groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer is unsustainable. That’s why I have worked so hard to increase federal funding for the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System. We must ensure that critical investments in this major water infrastructure project remain funded so that eastern New Mexico can depend on a reliable water supply for generations to come.”
Eastern New Mexico Water Utility (ENMWUA) Chairman David Lansford said, “This federal funding along with state and local ENMWUA member dollars will assist with the construction of Finished Water Two and Finished Water Three, which represents the initial phase of the Interim Ground Water Project (IGWP). The IGWP is the next and most essential phase of the Ute Water Project in both the short and intermediate term. This is important because it allows the ENMWUA to utilize the pipeline in the interim, while it continues to build toward Ute reservoir, which will eventually provide the eight member communities with up to 16,450-acre feet annual supply of renewable surface water.”
The BOR also allocated $7.65 million to other New Mexico water projects from its discretionary funds. This includes $1 million for the Middle Rio Grande Native Water Leasing Program. The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD) will work with BOR and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to secure additional water through this pilot project in the Middle Rio Grande. Secured water will help ensure flow of the Middle Rio Grande during irrigation season and in sections of the river prone to drying.
Mike Hamman, Chief Engineer and Chief Operating Officer of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, said, “The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District is facing mounting challenges in balancing resources to meet its mission during the persistent drought conditions within the Rio Grande basin. It has never been more critical to work in collaboration with our federal partner, the US Bureau of Reclamation, on a number of recently funded projects that assists us and the six Middle Rio Grande Pueblos in rising to these challenges that includes the implementation of the 2016 biological opinion.”
BOR also funded $4 million for water conservation projects for pueblos along the Rio Grande, Rio Grande maintenance projects, and fire restoration projects. These funds will assist New Mexico’s 18 pueblos design, build, and improve irrigation infrastructure to improve water conservation and storage. Funding of $1.65 million was allocated to implement the Isleta Pueblo Settlement. This settlement, executed in October 2016 between the Pueblo, BOR, and the MRGCD, requires river and bosque restoration on pueblo land, removal of sediment buildup, and upgrades to the Isleta Dam Diversion. And BOR allocated $1 million for assessment of salt basin ground water in the Carlsbad area. This project will be conducted jointly by the Office of the State Engineer and BOR, and will help the Pecos River Project better understand the aquifer in order to develop additional water sources.
Udall said, “BOR funding for these programs is focused on conservation, habitat restoration, infrastructure maintenance and development, and using our scarce water resources wisely. In New Mexico, we say ‘agua es vida” – water is life. We know the value of the resource, and I’m pleased that we were able to secure this extra federal funding to help address New Mexico water priorities.”
Heinrich said, “As we confront the impacts of climate change and prolonged drought conditions, New Mexicans require cost effective, science-based solutions to our water challenges. We especially need to prioritize the water needs of our rural, tribal, and low-income communities. I’m pleased that this federal funding will be put to work to address challenges in every corner of New Mexico, and I will continue to fight for resources, infrastructure investments, and forward-looking policies that support long-term, sustainable use of our precious and limited water resources.”
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