Delivery alert

There may be an issue with the delivery of your newspaper. This alert will expire at NaN. Click here for more info.

Recover password

The governor’s water projects: this is not a list

SANTA FE, N.M. — In talking to New Mexico state legislators over the last few weeks about Gov. Susana Martinez’s water capital projects spending initiative, I keep running into the same question: Where’s the list?

We’ll have more on all this in Sunday’s Monday’s newspaper. Here’s a quick summary of what we know.

In a November news conference, Martinez announced that she was seeking $112 million – 60 percent – of the state’s capital outlay money in the 2014-15 fiscal year for water projects around the state. The lack of a list of the projects she’s talking about has become a source of conflict. The administration officials shepherding the project have played their cards close, as Environment Secretary Ryann Flynn, the administration’s point person on the initiative, explained yesterday to the Senate Finance Committee: “A list needs to come from collaboration between the executive and the Legislature.”

From a statement issued yesterday by Flynn shortly before the Finance Committee hearing started:

[T]he process of compiling a capital bill for the state is dynamic. We are committed to funding critical water projects throughout the State that meet the goals we’ve outlined, with the hope that our dollars would be focused on completing as many projects as possible and ensuring that we invest in the projects that mitigate the greatest risk and/or provide the greatest opportunity for economic growth for our communities.

As a result of this approach, Flynn’s staff has repeatedly delayed making public any details about specific projects that are among the administration’s priorities, but in response to repeated inquiries from the Journal and others, they’ve begun dribbling out some information. So with a nod to the painter René Magritte’s famous painting “The Treachery of Images” (a painting of a pipe with the text “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – “This is not a pipe”) beneath it, here’s a thing that is not a list of the governor’s water capital projects priorities. The first includes officials have discussed publicly at a series of meetings around the state. The second is from a more detailed summary of priorities distributed to reporters yesterday. I’ll paste the full text of yesterday’s summary below, but for quick reading, here’s my not list:

Already announced:

  • Chama – Waste Water Treatment Plant – $8.2 Million
  • Santa Cruz/El Llano (Espanola Area) – Uranium Treatment Project – $1.6 Million
  • Red River – River Stewards Program – ($1.5 Million for entire statewide River Stewards Program)
  • Gabaldon – $259,070 for a new well
  • Soccoro – San Acacia Levee Project – $1,800,000
  • Hatch – Village of Hatch Water System – $60,000
  • Las Cruces – Water Supply Well Replacement and Monitoring: Total Funding $1,950,140
  • Las Cruces – Sewer System: $2,246,091
  • Santa Teresa– Camino Real Regional Water Utility Authority – $8,750,000

Mentioned in Thursday’s policy priorities summary (with no dollars attached)

  • Dams that have been prioritized as needing repair money: Lake Maloya, Cimarroncito, Alto Lake, Grindstone Canyon, San Mateo, Power Lake, and Bradner
  • Communities that need funding to help dealing with water quality problems: Upper Arroyo Hondo MDWCA (uranium issues), Santa Teresa and Algodones (arsenic issues); and Carnuel and Gabaldon (nitrate issues)
  • Communities facing water supply shortfalls: Las Vegas, Magdalena, Vaughn, Maxwell, Hanover and La Cueva
  • Watersheds that need restoration work because of fires and flood risk: Jemez, San Francisco, Upper Chama, Sacramento, Pecos, and Rio Grande
  • New wells and other infrastructure for Rio Rancho
  • Money for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s aquifer recharge project

Here’s Flynn’s summary, distributed prior to yesterday’s Senate Finance committee meeting, of the administration’s overall priorities for the work and some projects for which funding may be pursued:

The Governor is asking that lawmakers appropriate a significant portion of the State’s capital dollars to water projects this year. Specifically, she has requested that roughly 60% of these funds go to critical water infrastructure projects throughout the State. That equates to roughly $112 million.

As you know, whether we’re talking about the dairy industry in rural eastern New Mexico or making microchips at Intel in Rio Rancho, water is a key driver of so many industries that comprise our State’s diverse economy. Investing in water infrastructure not only will create jobs in the short-run – in design and construction phases, but will also lay a long-term foundation for economic growth.

Specifically, the Governor believes that we need to repair our damaged watersheds and restore our rivers, which have both faced tremendous beatings as the result of fires and floods. She believes we need to finally repair dams that have long been deteriorating – in some cases leaking, and in others, posing serious safety concerns to communities. She believes that it’s unacceptable to have three dozen communities in the State that don’t have clean drinking water – particularly when fixing this problem in each of these areas is not incredibly costly. The Governor also believes we need to invest in water research and development at our public universities. And, she believes that it’s critical to invest in the infrastructure necessary to prevent communities from going dry – backup wells, redundant systems in the case of failure, etc. Of course, there are numerous other types of miscellaneous water projects that would serve as important contributors to local economies throughout the State as well.

Several state agencies work on a continual basis to evaluate the state’s water infrastructure and identify areas of greatest need – generally based on health, safety, scientific, or economic development concerns.

For example, the State Engineer’s Office routinely evaluates the strength and integrity of our dams, and the need for repairs tends to be highest for Lake Maloya, Cimarroncito, Alto Lake, Grindstone Canyon, San Mateo, Power Lake, and Bradner dams. There are a number of other dam restoration needs throughout the state, but those represent some of the most at-risk dams. In addition, inundation mapping will identify flood zones related to small flood protection dams and allow for efficient and appropriate engineering design and construction to protect our communities.

In addition, through the Water Taskforce, we have worked to identify the numerous communities that face water shortage issues, have poor water quality, and/or need to fix failing or inadequate wastewater systems. If you need a list of those communities that have unclean drinking water, please let me know and I can send it to you. It’s our hope that we would be able to restore clean drinking water in as many of them as possible. Some examples of these communities include Santa Cruz / El Llano MDWCA and Upper Arroyo Hondo MDWCA (uranium issues), Santa Teresa and Algodones (arsenic issues); and Carnuel and Gabaldon (nitrate issues). And we have significant water supply/water shortage concerns in communities like Las Vegas, Magdalena, and Vaughn, which tend to be more high-profile… but also in communities like in Maxwell, Hanover and La Cueva – which could face shortages at any moment. It’s our hope that we would address the issues in these communities and others.

And with respect to watersheds, given the experiences we’ve had with recent fires and floods, we have a very good general idea of where our greatest needs are. They include, but aren’t limited to the Jemez, San Francisco, Upper Chama, Sacramento, Pecos, and Rio Grande watersheds.

Throughout the last few weeks, the Governor has specifically addressed several individual water projects that she would like to see funded. These include a wastewater treatment plant in Chama, a uranium treatment project in the Espanola area, repairs and upgrades to the San Acacia levee in Socorro, replacing drinking water supply wells and upgrading the sewer system in Las Cruces, drilling a deeper supply well and installing a new nitrate treatment system in Gabaldon, additional supply wells and a wastewater treatment plant upgrades in Santa Teresa, and a desalination project in Alamogordo. In addition, the Governor has spoken several times before about the River Stewards Initiative, which would need to be funded through capital dollars. The River Stewards Initiative creates a fund for projects that address the root causes of poor water quality and stream habitat in areas such as the Lower Rio Grande, the Middle Rio Grande, the Red River, Rio Bonito, the Animas River, the Pecos River, and Placer Creek and Rio Vallecitos. The goal of the River Stewards Initiative is to improve and protect water quality to support the propagation of fish, human recreation, irrigation and municipal water supplies uses.

And, we have been actively engaged in dialogue with legislators, mayors, commissioners, and water experts throughout the State to identify other critical projects in various communities. For example, the City of Rio Rancho worked with their delegation to identify several important water projects, including replacing water lines throughout the City and constructing a new well to replace two wells that were lost due to age and deterioration. In Albuquerque, we have been actively engaged with local leaders and staff from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority that are proposing a Large Scale Recharge Project, which will allow the Water Authority to recharge the Middle Rio Grande Basin (MRGB) Aquifer to establish a drought reserve for future water supply needs and also provide a means to temporarily store surface water in the aquifer in the winter for later use in the summer. And in Las Cruces, the projects mentioned above came nearly entirely from local input in the process. In just the last few days, at least a dozen other communities have contacted us to work with them, and their legislators, to identify and discuss water priorities in their areas. More than 70 communities have communicated with the State that they have critical water projects that require capital funding. We’ll be engaging in those discussions.

So, the process of compiling a capital bill for the state is dynamic. We are committed to funding critical water projects throughout the State that meet the goals we’ve outlined, with the hope that our dollars would be focused on completing as many projects as possible and ensuring that we invest in the projects that mitigate the greatest risk and/or provide the greatest opportunity for economic growth for our communities.

What we’ve outlined here gives a guide as to the approach we’re taking, and we are hoping for continual input from legislators, municipalities, and counties in the coming days and weeks.

Of course, not everything mentioned in this email will be able to be funded, but working together, we can use our scarce resources to certainly make significant headway in improving the State’s water infrastructure.

TOP |