By Mary Alice Murphy

New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity Chairwoman Darr Shannon opened the meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, after the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, by asking for a 10-second moment of silence for the victims of the shooting in Las Vegas, NV.

After roll call of the Entity members, she asked those attending by telephone to introduce themselves. They were Interstate Stream Commission Attorney Dominque Work, Paco Larsen and John Sikora of AECOM, and Rob McGregor from Congressman Steve Pearce’s office.

During public comment, Gerald Schultz, representing New Mexico Natural Resource and Conservation Districts, said he had read an article that had a paragraph on a river in the Noatak National Refuge, describing it as the last complete river in the U.S. He said it was available at www.nts.gov/noat/index.php

He said many people call the Gila River free-flowing but it is not a complete river.

The next to speak was Shirley Pevarnik, who quoted from a Father Thomas Berry. He said: The Earth is a collection of subjects, not objects. “The loss of the Gila River would be a loss to me and my grandchildren. We need the Gila for a sense of the sacred.”

Terry Timme of the Southwest Chapter of the Audubon Society said the meeting was an opportunity to make the members aware that the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance had held a Children's Water Festival the prior week. The previous Wednesday, the festival had hosted students from Silver Schools, from Deming on Saturday, and on the day of the meeting students from Cobre and Lordsburg schools at the Gila River. "Only half of Silver City students had been to the Gila River. I ask you to maintain the Gila as a natural river."

Ron Troy, Grant County resident, said that at a recent Grant County Commission meeting, Commissioner Gabriel Ramos, who also represents the commission on the NM CAP Entity, had mentioned that people speak against this project. "My intent is to see that mistakes are not made. You need to add collective thought to the group, including the Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and New Mexico Game and Fish. All of them have made mistakes. If you include them, they can clue you into their mistakes and keep the taxpayers from lawsuits. National Fisheries has banned Coanda screens. I have constantly seen these things. Include those in these decisions and you will save yourself headaches."

Under old business, NM CAP Entity Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez said a work order for Occam Engineers Inc. had been approved by the city of Deming as the entity's second fiscal agent. "It has some tasked related to consultation with the CAP Entity." The scope of work will not exceed $60,000, which is the amount allocated to professional services in the current budget.

Kim Abeyta-Martinez, representing the Interstate Stream Commission as a non-voting member of the entity, asked how the entity would manage and control the contracting with the engineering firm. She noted that every task the ISC issues has a detailed scope of work.

"We will control by time," Gutierrez said. "We will work closely with the engineers and we will monitor them. We can stick a dollar amount on each task, and we can have a cost schedule if the board wants."

Ramos asked if the work order had been reviewed by counsel.

Attorney Pete Domenici Jr. confirmed that he has reviewed it. "Miss Abeyta-Martinez's question is valid. Anthony will monitor the contract."

Aaron Sera, representing the city of Deming, asked if it might be more appropriate to make a motion to allow Gutierrez to monitor.

Esker Mayberry, representing the Fort West Irrigation Association, asked when the engineers were given a task, if they would give an estimate.

"Certainly," Gutierrez said. "We need to set the time frame."

Lee asked counsel about bullet four in the tasks, which was to support the political process.

Domenici said Occam does it for other clients, "but they might have to register as a lobbyist."

Howard Hutchinson, representing the San Francisco Soil and Water Conservation District, said he would be more comfortable if the board gave specific authority to give to Gutierrez the allowance to monitor. "Maybe set a cost. I don't expect a lot of items that would require on-the-spot decision. I would prefer the board decide on the costs."

Domenici said the next 45 days are critical for a decision and then heading toward the next deadline.

"Do we have any idea of costs over the next 60 to 90 days," Entity Chairwoman Darr Shannon asked.

"How we reached the figure is $15,000 over each of the next four months," Gutierrez said.

Joe Runyan, representing the Gila Farm Irrigation Association, asked if anything would prevent the engineers getting information from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Fish and Wildlife or Game and Fish.

Gutierrez pointed out the Troy, who had made the suggestion, had not been involved in the process very long. "Every agency you can think of was included in the Stakeholders' process. There was no consensus. Some still say anything planned is detrimental to the ecology, while others say it could be beneficial. In the JPA, it states inclusion cannot be detrimental to the purpose, which is the New Mexico Unit. All stakeholders were invited to the table and it got us nowhere."

"I am assuming that what is on the work order is what the board wanted to accomplish," Sera said. "Maybe this is a good work plan, but we may not do all of it. Anthony should have the authority to decide what needs to be done."

Hutchinson said: "Giving Anthony authority should require him to let the board know ahead of time."

Domenici said the $15,000 a month "may not get what we need done in the next 45 days, if we want meaningful input from the engineers. We want to make sure the engineers are available when we need them."

Gutierrez said no specific language was in the RFP on support for the political process.

Abyeta-Martinez said the RFP dictates what is allowable in the work plan. "I recommend you take out the political process portion. You require Occam to give you written reports, not just verbal. I think you should take out the political process and put in a requirement for written reports regarding each task. I see no deliverables in writing."

Shannon explained the $60,000 is what is in the budget line item for engineering services. "Can we take money from, say, vehicle expenses, if we need more?"

Sera said, in prior meetings, the ISC has allowed line item transfers.

Shannon said it was likely the entity would have a special meeting to make the decision.

Sera said the engineers need to get started. He asked Gutierrez how he developed the scope of work.

"Once Occam was approved by Deming, I wanted discussion on how the engineers could lead to a decision," Gutierrez said. "I think the most important part is over the next 20 to 30 days. I think we want Occam to weigh in and maybe make a recommendation. I had a meeting with Reclamation. We're under the gun for NEPA."

Lee moved to approve the work order, with the elimination of political process and the requirement of written (and maybe verbal) reports. "Let Anthony manage the contract with a focus on the most immediate." Esker Mayberry, representing the Fort West Irrigation Association, seconded the motion.

"At our last meeting, we needed the weight of engineering experience," Runyan said. "I would like to keep the political process."

Lee said, he, too, would like to keep it in, "as long as we're on solid legal footing."

Hutchinson said he was not sure the board needed direct testimony before the Legislature. "I think the reports and consultation will be sufficient." He asked what data needed to be collected.

"I presume site visits," Gutierrez said.

"Aren't we already involved with AECOM to do site visits?" Hutchinson asked. "Isn't our need for the engineers to review what AECOM has given us?"

Gutierrez said, in order to do engineering of any kind, the engineers must understand the CUFA. "What I've learned from the board is that not everyone may totally agree with AECOM."

Hutchinson recommended adding to the work order recommendations that the engineers might look at the AECOM reports and see if there are any missing data elements or additional data needed. "We've gone through so many millions of dollars of data collection, using money that should be going to the project on the ground. Specify getting actual reports and adding recommendations."

Runyan said: "The crux of the issue is to let Anthony get the job done in the next 20-30 days. These engineers are heavy hitters, including locally. It's important to lean on their intuitions. We don't have to limit it to $15,000 a month."

Shannon reiterated the motion to allow Gutierrez to manage the project, while eliminating the political process.

"We can ask for recommendations," Lee said. "I will leave my motion as is." It was approved with one nay vote from Hutchinson.

"I will be diligent and will take Howard's comments before we move forward," Gutierrez said.

The next article will cover board discussion on the previous week's AECOM report.

Live from Silver City

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