Aug 12, 2011

Officials break ground on Ute pipeline project amid protests

From the Clovis News Journal - As a light rain sprinkled over the Ute Reservoir, the sounds of protest drowned out officials’ optimistic vision of progress and a long-term solution for eastern New Mexico’s water supply. Hundreds attended Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the first phase of the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, commonly known as the Ute Water Project, ranging from Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to Clovis and Portales city officials, to other officials marking the ceremonial first step to the $432 million pipeline project. But the three dozen public officials, supporters and media members were far outnumbered by Logan and Quay County residents, who lined the road leading up to the reservoir and surrounded the small ceremony with jeers and chants to protest concerns the authority will drain the lake, which is tied into local economies. “I think it went well,” said Ben Newton, a Logan business owner who helped organize the protest. “We had asked for people to keep it civil; no profanity, no outlandish thing. It was controlled well, we had a good turnout.” Chanters suggested not too subtly that the visitors, "Go home," but also requested they, “Save our lake,” and respect “3,765,” in reference to the community’s desired elevation in feet for the reservoir, which was created though legislative action nearly a half-century ago as a potable water source for eastern New Mexico, with water reserved by several communities. The first phase is an intake structure, or pumping station, that would move the water from the reservoir to authority members that have reserved it — Clovis, Portales, Texico, Melrose, Grady, Elida and Curry and Roosevelt counties. Planned delivery is 16,450 acre feet annually, or approximately 5.4 billion gallons. “We understand,” said Newton, who has owned Ruf-Nec Tackle since 2000. “We know they own the water rights; we’re not contesting that. What we are asking is ... for a permanent pool at the elevation of 3,765. We feel that is viable for our area. Logan residents and officials know the history and intent of the reservoir, but also feel conditions have changed over 50 years, as the village of about 1,000 has current and future economic development tied to the lake and its resort capabilities. Read more

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