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NMCAP Entity 120517

[Editor's Note: This is part 3 and the final part of a three-article series on the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity's Dec. 5, 2017 meeting]

By Mary Alice Murphy

The New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity members, at their Dec. 5, 2017 meeting, considered an increase to a budget line item, two engineering work orders, as well as a work order for a strategic plan and business plan and a discussion regarding next steps for engineering.

CAP Entity Executive Director Anthony Gutierrez asked that the professional services line item be increased by $150,000.

"That is, of course, pending approval by the Interstate Stream Commission. We have a budget that would cover the present work orders," Gutierrez said. "We have a large amount set aside for water credits that we can buy. The increase we're asking for could be a line item adjustment."

Chairwoman Darr Shannon clarified that it is an increase, not an adjustment.

Gutierrez said: "We have the $850 million for water credits."

ISC Attorney Dominique Work, attending by phone, said she was not certain that the entity has the right to move money out of the water credits line item, but she would check.

A motion to ask for the increase through the ISC and the Department of Finance and Administration was approved.

Two work orders for OCCAM Engineers Inc., an engineering firm that serves the entity, were addressed.

Gutierrez said in work order No. CAP-1702P, he would like to utilize OCCAM Engineers to continue to do work to provide information for the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis. "We chose on-farm storage and need more information."

The work order was approved, after Shannon asked for clarification that the Virden Valley in this case was considered part of the Upper Gila, which it was confirmed it was for the work order.

Work Order CAP-1703P asks for investigation of the infrastructure and pipeline for Bill Evans Lake. Gutierrez said the task orders would identify specific items. "We will have no notice to proceed until we have budgeted approval for the increase in the professional services line item."

The next work order CAP-1704 asks for OCCAM Engineers to create a strategic plan outline, as well as a business plan.

Gutierrez said New Mexico State University professor Frank Ward would be able to assist with a white paper on the issue.

"Every time we go to the Legislature, we're on the defense," Gutierrez said. "If we have a document with the potential agricultural and economic benefits, it will help our case. There are a lot of components to a strategic plan. It does cover substantial amounts of what we have discussed over and over."

Vance Lee, representing Hidalgo County, asked if the entity would be involved in 1704P, to which he was told yes.

David McSherry, representing the city of Deming, said his only concern was that three meetings ago, the entity changed language from political to regulatory actions. "The statement was made by the ISC not to go into political activities."

Gutierrez said the strategic plan would be information to present to the legislators, not for lobbying. "OCCAM will also be able to provide consultation to us. It will be beneficial for us to have one story."

Ty Bays, representing the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District said a fact sheet of what the entity is and plans to do would be helpful.

"This is a long-range strategic plan, not just a fact sheet," Gutierrez said. "It is for future strategy. We still need identification of operations and maintenance costs and a lists of crops that would create higher revenue streams. We want to present more information on the benefits of our utilizing this water and funding."

"I encourage you to produce this soon," Bays said. "There is a lot of misinformation out there. It is critical to get the facts out and to protect our mission."

Shannon asked when OCCAM could start the strategic plan.

"This is a long-range plan," Gutierrez said. "It could take months. It will take at least 90 days to get the budget increase. A line item adjustment could get the money more quickly."

Shannon asked if the budget increase required a resolution.

"I don't think a resolution is necessary," Work said, "but it's always a good option. I think it's OK. If you want to do a resolution in January, it can be put on the ISC January meeting. The ISC will have no December meeting."

Shannon said she would have the resolution for the next meeting. "Would OCCAM be keeping us abreast of where we are, even if it's just a document?"

Gutierrez said it would, and he asked that entity members give him any recommendations for items to be done by the engineers. "Please let me know your suggestions."

Gabriel Ramos, representing Grant County, asked that the talking points be developed as soon as possible for the legislative session. "We want to avoid the whispers into legislator's ears that are not truthful."

"We need some things quickly," Gutierrez said. "This is a work order. We can work on tasks and amend the work order, if we need to."

The work order was approved.

Shannon asked for ideas from the members. "The sooner, the better."

The next agenda item was discussion, with action or no action on next steps for engineering relating to the New Mexico Unit.

"How do we move forward with other parts of the proposed action, such as the aquifer storage recharge and on-farm ponds?" Gutierrez asked. "We need a scope of work with AECOM or OCCAM."

"As soon as we send the letter, we approved earlier, when does NEPA start?" Shannon asked.

Entity Attorney Pete Domenici Jr. replied: "Relatively quickly."

"Will it still be AECOM doing the work?" Shannon asked.

"We, as an entity, are authorized for design," Gutierrez said. "I think we need a new scope of work for AECOM. They have completed the last scope of work."

Shannon asked: "Do we have a choice to stick with AECOM or with our own engineers, OCCAM?"

Allen Campbell, representing Gila Hotsprings Ditch, asked if the entity is current in payment to AECOM.

"Everything is invoiced," Gutierrez replied. "AECOM has scopes of work. Once they are completed, they are invoiced and will be paid by the ISC."

"Will AECOM be involved in NEPA?" Campbell asked.

Shannon asked if there is still money for AECOM.

Gutierrez said yes to both questions. "I'm not sure how much money is left, but I presume it is enough for 30 percent design."

"Having AECOM involved is to leverage their familiarity with the project," McSherry said.

"Because AECOM has been the design engineer," Gutierrez said. "They have done the work, so they have to be involved in the strategic plan, too. What we don't want is a duplication of efforts. So we have to decide whether AECOM or OCCAM will do specific items."

Runyan suggested letting OCCAM do jobs and if they need information to ask AECOM.

"We still have issues with the budget," Gutierrez said. "We are already budgeted for AECOM, but we currently don't have a full budget for OCCAM. I estimate it will be in place in about a month."

For OCCAM, language in the RFP under which the firm was hired, addresses moving forward with analysis.

"It seems to me it would be easier to work through OCCAM and work with AECOM to get this done in a month," Lee said.

Gutierrez said the additional scope of work would be for added analysis for design. "We don't have to choose one engineering firm."

ISC Gila Basin Manager Ali Effati, attending on the phone, said it seems to be the will of the CAP Entity board for OCCAM to work with AECOM. Both need a scope of work, which makes two to be sent to the ISC. "We have roughly about $20,000 under contingency for AECOM. It depends on the number of tasks for AECOM to look at."

Shannon said the scopes of work needed to be ready for the next meeting, and distributed to the board members before the next meeting.

"We will have to have discussions with both engineering firms and the ISC," Gutierrez said.

The agenda item was postponed to the next meeting.

In his executive director report, Gutierrez said he wanted to address what Lee said in his request for an executive director evaluation. "I asked for the evaluation. It is difficult for me, as I don't get a lot of information from the members. I certainly would appreciate the evaluation. I make mistakes and own up to them. I will make changes if I need to make them. It will be nice to have a strategic plan so I can move beyond just next month."

Shannon said a survey evaluation by all members would be done.

"I did take positive things from the Water and Natural Resources Interim Committee on the cost, size and feasibility of our project," Gutierrez said. "I think we have a lot of support to develop the water. We are seeing progress, and we are seeing support from some that were opposed. There are still some concerns on ecological impacts. I said we are trying to minimize the ecological impacts. I will explain them to the legislators when we meet. I will attend the New Mexico First Town Hall on the State Water Plan next week."

"I appreciate what you're doing," Bays said. "Convey to the members from Doña Ana County and Santa Fe that every county, every municipality represented, and every member of the CAP Entity is elected to the position. Everyone in Southwest New Mexico supports this project."

Gutierrez said one representative said he didn't think the Legislature should have authority over the CAP Entity.

"We should do our due diligence," Ramos said. "We must chat with those on committees to stop the false whispers they are hearing."

The next meeting is set, pending availability, for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, at the Grant County Administration Center.

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