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$600M water plan proposed for Santolina

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Officials with the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority have informed developers of the proposed 13,700-acre Santolina planned community that new water capacity and infrastructure will be needed to provide water and sewer services at the site – at an estimated cost of $600 million to the developer over the 50-year build-out.

At full build-out, the Santolina development in southwestern Bernalillo County could see a population of 96,000 people, about the size of Rio Rancho, and include five residential villages and village commercial sites, two business parks, a town center, an industrial/business park and an urban center, along with parks, trails, public open space, educational facilities, roads and utilities.

But water usage has been a topic of debate from impassioned residents as Western Albuquerque Land Holdings has sought approval of the “Santolina Master Plan” from county authorities for several years.

The Water Utility Authority issued a “Water, Reuse and Sewer Serviceability Statement” for the development earlier this month. Officials presented the report to the entity’s board members on Wednesday.

Bohannan Huston, on behalf of the developer, earlier this year requested the serviceability statement. It sets out terms and conditions by which the Water Utility Authority can provide service to the development bound by Interstate 40 to the north, 118th Street and the escarpment open space to the east, the Pajarito Mesa to the south and the escarpment area adjacent to the Rio Puerco Valley on the west.

Bernalillo County planners have told developers they would not accept final plans unless water is secured under such a statement.

Water Utility Authority officials have told developers that groundwater is available on the property, but no additional water capacity within the Water Utility Authority’s current infrastructure is available for the area.

The statement includes a proposal for a 25-year, three-part phased infrastructure construction plan, which focuses on water reuse. The developer would pay for any needed infrastructure, as Water Utility Authority policy requires new infrastructure to be built at zero net cost to existing ratepayers.

“In terms of the additional requirements for Santolina, there are three systems that need to be built: a water system, a reuse system and a waste water system,” John Stomp, the utility’s chief operating officer, told board members.

Stomp said about 11,700 acre-feet of water per year is needed to supply an estimated peak demand of 18.5 million gallons of water a day and an average wastewater flow of 7.8 million gallons a day for the property.

“This phasing is based on the demand projection from the information that was provided by the developer,” Stomp said.

First phase

The first phase of water infrastructure, which could start in 2020, would include a transmission system pipeline, raw water pipeline, storage tanks, pump stations, a river diversion and pump station, a raw water/reuse reservoir, and construction of water treatment plants.

Reuse infrastructure in a first phase includes construction of water reuse plants, transmission system pipelines, six storage tanks and three pump stations.

Future phases, in 2035 and 2045, would include acquisition of more groundwater capacity, as well as construction of pipelines, storage tanks, construction of water treatment and reuse plants and a reservoir.

The statement is effective for one year, so the developer and Water Utility Authority have that time to come to terms on a development agreement, Stomp told board members.

The board took no action on the statement Wednesday, but board approval is required on a potential development agreement as the property is outside the Water Utility Authority’s adopted service area.

Past county action

In June 2015, Bernalillo County commissioners adopted the Level A Master Plan for the entire property, which at the time was described by developers as “a big picture concept for how a major development will come together over time.”

Commissioners imposed several conditions when they approved the Level A plan. Among them was a requirement that Santolina have a fully executed development agreement with the Water Utility Authority, that it address water conservation and that any water and wastewater issues be resolved prior to the next phase of the master plan being approved.

But the developer asked for those conditions to be modified, asserting that officials at the Water Utility Authority didn’t wish to tackle a water plan until there was a Level B Master Plan in place.

County commissioners approved the Level B1 Master Plan, which covers about 4,000 acres and provides more detail about the location of housing, businesses and community services within the development, on a 3-2 vote in September 2017. That approval allowed developers to commence negotiations with the Water Utility Authority over water needs.

If the Level B process sees completion, there’s another proposed step in the planning process. Level C development plans would include actual building plans for any subdivision or commercial development.

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