Mayor discusses conservation plan at water committee meeting

Clovis News Journal (NM), 2014-08-20


Aug. 20 --Mayor David Lansford attended the Water Policy Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday morning at City Hall to discuss a conservation plan aimed at preserving the Ogallala Aquifer.

Lansford said the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts is requesting funding for USDA's Regional Conservation Partnership Program -- a Farm Bill program -- for fiscal years 2015-2019.

This initiative includes several programs for farmers; including one that would incentivize them for switching from irrigation to dryland farming; a program that would help agriculture producers maintain and/or improve their conservation systems; and a program that supports the maintenance of local playas.

Lansford said a preliminary application for USDA funds has been approved; a final application is due Oct. 2 .

Lansford said local entities have supported various conservation projects in the area; and it is now the turn of the federal government to do so.

He mentioned the city's effluent reuse project, the purchase of water rights from farmer J.L. Wall , and EPCOR Water's promotion of conservation initiatives.

"Back in the early 90s, mid-90s, (federal agents) told us to be good stewards of our water supply and do everything we can to be efficient with the water we have," Lansford said. "We've done that. We've ... done our part. ... We're asking the federal government to step up to the plate and do their part."

During a subsequent presentation, Water Policy Advisory Committee member Gene Hendrick shared information on his idea on how Clovis could acquire funds to help secure water rights: Through increasing the gross receipts tax.

Hendrick had presented the idea during July's Water Policy Advisory Board meeting; citing as an example the village of Ruidoso and Ruidoso Downs , which increased the GRT to pay for a federally mandated sewage treatment plan that cost $26 million .

Information Hendrick presented to the committee included calculations on how much money a GRT increase in Clovis would generate in a year.

Currently 7.8125 percent, an 8.3125 GRT would generate $4 million in a year; an 8.5625 GRT would generate $6 million in a year and an 8.8124 GRT would mean an extra $8 million a year for Clovis .

Hendrick said he presented the idea to increase the GRT for the sake of the area's water about 15 yeas ago to city politicians to no avail.

"I know you guys are probably wondering who ... do I think I am," Hendrick said to the committee. "I'm just a citizen of this community, and I'm on this board, and I'm very interested in water and I have been for 15 years at least."

Hendrick, who was a legislative assistant under Rep. Anna Crook from 2000 to 2009, said he is trying to figure out a funding mechanism to alleviate Clovis' water issues.

"The mayor has confidence in getting money from state and federal (agents) that I don't have," Hendrick said. "I have never, that I can recall in my life, gotten any assistance from the feds or the state."

He also acknowledged that many may be turned off by his plan because it involves raising taxes.

"I know nobody likes it, because it raises taxes," he said. "Taxes are necessary and really, when you get right down to it, it makes sense that the users pay."

In other business, EPCOR District Manager Brian Daly said an "unusually wet summer" helped diminish the demand for water in Clovis in the month of July.

He said the area has gotten 10 inches of rain in the past two months.

"As far as system delivery, we're doing exceptional," he said.

In July, EPCOR delivered 192 million gallons of water, compared to July 2013 , during which 213 million gallons of water were delivered, Daly said.

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