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White House disavows infrastructure priorities document

The White House this morning disavowed a document stating that the Augustin Plains Ranch water project proposal in New Mexico is among 50 major infrastructure projects under consideration by President Donald Trump’s administration.

On Tuesday night, the Journal linked to the document – first reported by the Kansas City Star of the McClatchy newspaper group – in a story on its website. The original post on abqjournal.com was removed late Tuesday night after a Politico Pro report questioned the document’s authenticity.

“It is not a White House policy document,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in an email this morning, responding to a Journal request for comment.

However, McClatchy’s Washington bureau still had the story on its website this morning with an “update” providing additional details about its sourcing.

From McClatchy:  President Donald Trump’s team has compiled a list of about 50 infrastructure projects nationwide, totaling at least $137.5 billion, as the new White House tries to determine its investment priorities, according to documents obtained by McClatchy’s Kansas City Star and The News Tribune.

 The preliminary list, provided to the National Governor’s Association by the Trump transition team, offers a first glimpse at which projects around the country might get funding if Trump follows through on his campaign promise to renew America’s crumbling highways, airports, dams and bridges. The governor’s association shared that list with state officials in December. The group told the officials the projects on that list were “already being vetted.”

The list in question includes the Augustin Plains Ranch water project that has been in the development stages for years. The project would  pump 54,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Augustin Plains of west-central New Mexico up to the Middle Rio Grande Valley is a step closer to public hearings.

The infrastructure list first reported by McClatchy describes the Augustin project like this: “A state-of-the-art, eco-friendly project (that) will be unique producing its own power and operations through hydro and solar energy. But more importantly, the project will create a new sustainable and abundant source of water independent of compacts with other states,”

The Journal reported in August that the existing plan calls for Augustin Plains Ranch to drill 37 wells on the 17,000 acres of property it owns near Datil. The company says the property sits atop an aquifer with a volume of about 50 million acre-feet of water. An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre at a depth of one foot.

According to the company, water pumped from the aquifer would be delivered via a 140-mile-long pipeline to Bernalillo County and available for purchase by all users along the way to supplement water shortages, enhance stream flows and benefit fish and wildlife, including such endangered species as the silvery minnow.

Augustin Plains Ranch proposes to sustain the aquifer by building structures to capture rain runoff and snow melt from nearby mountains.

But many ranchers on the Augustin Plains are opposed to the project because they fear it will suck all the groundwater out of the basin, rendering their own wells useless and killing their livelihoods. Some environmentalists don’t care for the plan either.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats on Tuesday offered a plan to spend $1 trillion on transportation and other infrastructure projects over 10 years.

Democrats estimate their plan would create 15 million jobs. The plan includes $210 billion to repair aging roads and bridges and another $200 billion for a “vital infrastructure fund” to pay for a variety of transportation projects of national significance.

It wasn’t immediately clear which, if any, New Mexico projects would be included in the Senate proposal.

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