Clarified: NM CAP Entity 100317 meeting part 3

[Editor's Note: This is part 3 and the final of a multi-series of articles on the Oct. 3, 2017 New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity regular meeting.]

By Mary Alice Murphy

As the final part of old business at the Oct. 3, 2017 regular meeting of the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity, Jeff Riley of the Phoenix Office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation gave a presentation on gravity flow project components, gravity flow storage options, on-farm storage and other water information. The item was for discussion only.

"I am a civil engineer for the Phoenix Office," Riley said. "I offer my engineering perspective. I would like this to be a discussion. I admire the dedication of all those who oppose a diversion and all those who are for one."

He said there is never enough money for such projects and "the AWSA (Arizona Water Settlements Act) doesn't make it easy to build a unit."

"The key points are that this is an opportunity for New Mexico to get federal money for diversion and non-diversion projects," Riley said. "You are trying for an achievable and affordable project. There never will be agreement, so it's important to make the best decision. Although important, the appearance is that there are just a few benefits. There can be many more benefits in the future. The long-range view should be considered. What is best for the future?"

He said Reclamation is present to help with the decision process. "The AECOM report has brought you much information. Some of you have concerns about ASR (aquifer storage and recharge). People have asked about gravity flow alternatives and non-pumping alternatives."

Riley noted that, as a comment on a discussion item in the previous article (at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/39815-nm-cap-entity-100317-meeting-part-2 ) on storage on the north side of Virden, he had a report on a previous study in his car.

About gravity flow, he cited advantages and disadvantages. "The advantage is simplicity and little to no electrical costs. When you're lifting water, you have operations and maintenance costs, need skilled labor and there are additional costs. Irrigators know how to manage gravity flow. The disadvantages are costs."

Riley said the discussion about on-farm storage had been around since the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission had proposed it in 2013. "We reviewed it as a concept. We looked at lined ponds and discussed unlined for recharge. If you're going to have unlined and lined ponds, keep them separate. Unlined ponds will plug on their own, so you may not need to provide lining. On-farm pond storage can be done later. Using construction dollars should be used for diversion and delivery."

Joe Runyan, representing the Gila Farm Irrigation Association, said: "I think a lot of us want a gravity system, with a diversion on the top of the river valley. But The ¬¬Nature Conservancy and Freeport-McMoRan are controlling the destiny of such diversions."

Riley said that Diversion Point 5 is possibly not achievable because of land ownership. Alternative 6 may be a better option. The diversion point in the river will discharge into the conveyance channels. "With a slope of .0003 you can get good water movement. If you flatten it more, you need more canal width."

NM CAP Entity Chairwoman Darr Shannon said the Winn Canyon, a proposed reservoir site, doesn't get much water if it is diverted from Alternative 6, because it's too high up the river. "What about Bell Canyon?"

"We ran some quick analyses," Riley said. "When you divert at Diversion Point 6, Winn can hold 203 acre-feet; Bell Canyon, 742 af, and Pope Canyon can store more than 3,000 af. An embankment dam would cost more for Pope. Because of topography, Karchner Canyon, for example, would require a more expensive dam for the amount of water stored."

He handed out several papers with maps and comparisons of the different potential storage options in canyons versus on-farm.

Campbell said gravity flow at .0003 slope would require a footprint 40-feet wide.

Riley said the top water surface would be 20- to 30-feet wide. The 40-foot wide footprint included embankments and slopes for 350 cfs flow. The entire footprint would be 100-feet wide with an access road and canal banks.

"I think that's why the group prefers a pipeline," Campbell said. "It would be tough to put in that slope and width in the upper areas where it's narrower."

Riley said if the group wants storage in canyons, it will require ditch realignments.

Campbell said it's why he kept bringing up the dreaded word, Mogollon. "With a four-foot pipe, it would carry 100 cfs."

Riley noted that side canyons will capture run off all year-long, so they could achieve that also.

Vance Lee, representing Hidalgo County, asked if catching rain run-off would be a problem with the CUFA.

"You have to meet the CUFA allowance," Riley said. "If you exceed it you have to release the water."

Runyan said he was looking at the numbers. "Are you saying the expandable on-farm storage is something you like?"

"Yes, I like on-farm storage," Riley said. "It looks interesting. But you need someone who wants it on their land and you don't necessarily want it on agricultural land."

Runyan noted that the on-farm storage could be expandable in the future. Riley agreed and said: "Water needs may evolve in the future, but it is important to get the process started."

Riley continued and said: "I'm always partial to typical gated concrete diversions, with gates on both sides. The Upper Gila Valley will require wing walls to prevent erosion around the end of the structure. It will back up water behind it. It will be a pond until it is silted in."

"AECOM mentioned Obermayer gates," Riley said. "The concept is great, because it allows for sediment transport, but they have O&M costs. As for Coanda screens, you have to replace them every three years and you lose six feet of elevation."

He said the Coanda screens have to be replaced so often because of flood damage, debris and corrosion issues.

Diverting water is limited to the days the CUFA allows one to divert. "Average river flow curves make it appear that diversions during the shoulder seasons are reliable, but every year, every day is different. You have to be flexible. The system has to be able to divert when the water is available."

Domenici asked if lined on-farm storage ponds would mean there be no Ranney well pumping costs.

"It may be a benefit to have unlined ponds," Riley replied.

Domenici asked if any assessment had been done on how many acres are available for on-farm ponds.

"If you maximize the $34 million and put all the money and water into lined on-farm storage ponds, 100 acres at 15-foot-depth will give you 1,500 acre-feet," Riley said. "They can be gravity fed and gravity flow out, but there may be some pumping needed to completely empty the ponds."

Domenici asked if the ponds can be drained and refilled, to which Riley replied: "Yes."

Domenici also asked if the bottom and side walls would be lined, also.

"Yes, sides and bottom would be line. A geomembrane lining would be covered with earthen material, or you could line bentonite or clay," Riley said.

Lee asked if Riley would anticipate pumping with more conventional on-farm to reach farmers who don't have access to the on-farm storage "It wouldn't need to be as sophisticated as Ranney wells? You could just pump into the ditches."

Campbell asked if Riley had seen Coanda screens on any river like the Gila. Riley said they are usually used on clear mountain streams.

Runyan asked if the on-farm storage would be privately owned or entity owned.

"I would think entity-owned, which would require rights-of-way," Riley said.

Domenici asked if construction money could be used to purchase land ownership. Riley said he would think so.

Shannon said asked what kind of difficulty might the entity run into to acquire property. "How does it work? We are under the gun."

Riley said: "We can't do NEPA if we don't know where the on-farm storage is going. We need to determine the land ownership. You have to determine how many acre-feet of water will be diverted. All components of the project need to be covered in this EIS (environmental impact statement)."

Esker Mayberry, representing the Fort West Irrigation Association, said he didn't see a lot of irrigators wanting to cut their land in half. "The Bell Canyon owner doesn't want a dam. He doesn't even want watershed management."

B.J. Agnew, representing the Upper Gila Irrigation Association, said he has a lot of reservations about on-farm storage, "because of the depletion of farm land."

Mayberry concurred and said his constituents don't want to take any land out of production.

Riley noted the storage can be made as large or small as anyone wants. "You can put it in side canyon wash out to avoid ag lands. There are areas out there."

Mayberry said, maybe, if it can be done without cutting the land in half for conveyance. "On Garcia Canyon, the Upper Gila Watershed Alliance didn't even want it cleaned out."

"I'm way upstream," Campbell said. "I have encouraged people to talk to people who own property. Go to the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission meeting and see who has property that is available. I find it an affront to our interests. I see these dots and specs on the map that don't belong to me. I talked to Mr. Woodward on Mogollon Creek. It's way past time for AECOM and us to make a decision. It has to be done."

Gutierrez said the Gila Valley used to be full of ponds. "I have identified some places. While people are not willing to take irrigated land out of production, I talked to Mrs. Shoemaker and she has 40 plus acres, she's willing to put to storage."

"For NEPA, we have to identify areas that can benefit from an on-farm pond," Gutierrez continued. "I think the interest could create wetlands, whether lined or not that become lined because of sediment. Make bookends of where the facilities are that could take irrigated areas in the Valley that could benefit. AECOM came and we went to some of the historic pond areas."

Gutierrez said that because they are all along ditches, they would be gravity flow.

Runyan asked how practical it was to look at sites and "get it going."

Gutierrez said he thinks on-farm storage is limited by how much AWSA water they can store. "I also see some issues with ASR. In my opinion, I think there are benefits to storing in the aquifer. GBIC in its initial application had underground storage."

Shannon asked about Pope Canyon. Gutierrez said he wondered how much of that water could be used in the upper reaches of the valley. "Conveyance is expensive, and it's a challenge getting it up the valley. It would be excellent for Virden."

Runyan asked if there had been any ideas of selling water.

"People have to be willing to buy, and you have to have a sustainable supply of water," Guiterrez said. "The greatest challenge with Pope Canyon is cost."

Shannon said if it is possible to be financially positive in the future, "why not consider it?"

"We can consider it if we have a phased project," Gutierrez said. "But with it in NEPA now, we would have to phase in Pope within five to 10 years or we would have to redo NEPA. If we don't develop it with the record of decision, we would lose the construction dollars, but that doesn't mean we couldn't develop it in the future."

Domenici asked if there were any opportunities to obtain other funding to add to the construction dollars.

Hutchinson said a host of other granting agencies include the NRCS, Fish and Wildlife and Game and Fish.

Domenici asked if NRCS might consider the on-farm storage. Hutchinson said, with the current Farm Bill, there is acequias funding, so "Yes, if it increases the efficiencies of ditches.

Gutierrez said NRCS has a formulary of the ratio of on-farm storage and irrigated acreage.

"There will be ownership issues," Domenici said. "I want clarification of whether we can use construction dollars for land purchase. There are more steps before acquisition. Maybe contingency is possible. We need a survey of interested parties fairly quickly. As we get into NEPA, we need to find out if we can get the land. Talking to property owners might be better done by representatives of the CAP Entity and local engineers."

"We can talk about purchase, but we need to also look at lease," Campbell said. "It might be more affordable for lease-purchase."

Domenici suggested maybe joint use agreements. He also said Reclamation people indicated they would be comfortable using conceptual maps to indicate the limited stretch within those areas, but "I think more detail would streamline the process."

"One of the biggest pieces of NEPA will be the native fish," Riley said. "We must determine the location of the diversion and analyze actual locations. The fish portion needs to be determined first."

He said concerning conveyance, the existing ditch alignments would work for on-farm storage or new alignments could be created. "Some current alignments maybe need to be extended. We may have to look at realignments to get to the highest elevations for on-farm storage. The cost of AWSA exchange water makes the economics for agriculture challenging. The cost of AWSA exchange is high for agricultural use."

Shannon asked how Arizona operates for agriculture with the Central Arizona Project.

"In Arizona, ag users pay less than half of the cost of CAP water. They pay only for energy costs, not fixed O&M," Riley said. "It costs them $61 or $64 per acre foot. This was part of a compromise to facilitate Inidian water settlements and ensure the ag industry remains strong. Arizona recognizes it's difficult for agriculture to pay full CAP prices. So CAP water users in Arizona subsidize ag users.. Energy costs will drop, when the Navajo Generating Station closes. Basically, big municipalities subsidize ag users."

"Arizona values its agriculture users," Shannon said.

Riley said agriculture also provides a buffer in shortage situations, for municipalities to get water.

Hutchinson said the riparian dependent areas also come first in NEPA. "Who is responsible for the biological component?"

"The requirement in NEPA is that species not be damaged," Riley said. "There will be continued monitoring. Reclamation is taking on the biological assessment."

In new business, Shannon said a request had come to the board for a briefing that can be submitted to the Water and Natural Resources Interim Legislative Committee meeting in November.

Hutchinson was appointed to be the creator of the briefing, and Gutierrez said he would help.

Kim Abeyta-Martinez, non-voting member representing the Interstate Stream Commission, gave a New Mexico Unit fund projection. "I have only provided what is known about revenue. The balance does not include any encumbrances that have been made, but not yet expended." She also said it does not include operating budgets.

The current NM Unit Fund balance is $44.1 million with four future payments of $9.06 million each for $36.16 million. Total revenue projected stands at $80.26 million. Projected expenditure total $22,268,880, leaving a projected available fund balance of $57,991,120. Interest is not projected.

Second fiscal agent the city of Deming, represented by Aaron Sera, said the NM CAP Entity has a budget of $1,337,184, with yearly expenditures of $381,078.75 expected, leaving a balance of $956,105.25. "None of the water banking allocation has been expended."

Gutierrez gave his executive director report and said he has been working with the engineers, and had met with Reclamation and the ISC on recommendations for a project.

"We received the final signatory pages for the amended JPA," he said. "I will get it to the Department of Finance and Administration (which must approve it.)."

Shannon said someone asked her when the money for the project disappears.

"The New Mexico Unit Fund doesn't disappear unless by action from the Legislature," Gutierrez said. "The construction dollars go away at the end of 2019. I think it is imperative to use the construction dollars for beneficial use of the AWSA water in New Mexico.

"As Lee says; 'It's about the water,' Gutierrez continued. "It would be a shame to lose that money, which we will unless we get a positive record of decision on a unit."

Shannon asked at what point the money would be encumbered.

"It will be on a construction reimbursement basis," Gutierrez said.

"One more comment before we set a meeting date," he said. "I would like to make the meeting mandatory to make a decision. On Friday, we get the draft."

The more than 500-page document is downloadable at http://nmcapentity.org/documents/reference-documents/57-version-2-nmcap-phase-ii-concept-development-and-selections-draft-final-100617

"AECOM said it would be extremely useful to get board member input," Gutierrez said.

Because the regular meeting date of Nov. 7, was not available, the date for the next meeting was set for 10 a.m. Monday Oct. 30, 2017, at the Grant County Administration Center.

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