[Editor's Note: This is the final part of the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity held Monday, Aug. 5, 2019. This completes the rest of the meeting.]
The first part of the New Mexico Central Arizona Project Entity meeting held Aug. 5, 2019, was a discussion of the business plan and was covered in an article, which can be read at http://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/52605-nm-cap-entity-holds-regular-meeting-080519-part-1
The next item on the agenda requested authority for a letter to the Secretary of the Interior requesting an extension of the deadline for the subsequent record of decision.
Entity Attorney Pete Domenici Jr. said he had sent a letter requesting the meetings on the record of decision. "The idea of this item is to give support of the request for the extension for it to be in the record. It has two prongs. One to request a meeting with Kyle Weaver as soon as possible. My anticipation is that no decision will be made, but my goal is to have a firm timeline. I would like to verbally let them know what we want."
Entity member Ty Bays, representing the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District, said there might be some members who would want to also go to Washington D.C.
A motion was made to formally ask for an extension of the record of decision. After a second, and following discussion, it was approved prior to the next agenda item.
Domenici noted that Weaver would be in New Mexico in mid-September and would like to visit the area.
Aaron Sera, representing the city of Deming, said he believes a meeting with the Department of Interior is appropriate, but he has heard that the Bureau of Reclamation is not recommending the extension.
Domenici concurred that the Department of the Interior is not giving the entity much guidance in the issue. "They told us they are looking at the financial aspects. I will draft the outlines of a letter of support from Reclamation."
Sera suggested having it at the special meeting on Aug. 14 to be approved or not.
"We've asked Reclamation to weigh in," Gutierrez said. "I think because they are a joint lead, they felt they didn't need to weigh in with support or not. I don't think we will get a letter of support from them."
Sera said the New Mexico congressional delegation is not listening to the CAP Entity. "They are listening to the Bureau of Reclamation."
Hutchinson said he thought it would be important to have the letter on the agenda. "If we get the outline and concepts to have a discussion on it at the special meeting, it would be helpful."
Bays said he would like to hear from Reclamation if they would authorize or oppose such a letter, but no one came forward to comment on it.
Domenici said it could be a letter or a phone conference in his office.
Board Chairwoman Darr Shannon asked if the item should be on the agenda.
Hutchinson said, after consideration, he thought Gutierrez and Domenici could handle it.
Bays said if the answer from Reclamation is no, they don't want to authorize such a letter, "I would ask why?"
In new business, members discussed how to prepare for the Water and Natural Resources Interim Legislative Committee to take place in Silver City on Oct. 17 and 18, 2019.
Hutchinson moved that the chair appoint a committee to prepare.
Shannon named Hutchinson, Domenici, Gutierrez, member Joe Runyan, representing the Gila Farm Irrigation Ditch Association, and Stantec engineer Scott Verhines to prepare for the meeting.
"Selecting who will present will be part of the preparation," Hutchinson said.
Gutierrez said he doesn't yet know what they will want. "They may want a presentation, or we might prepare a paper with the updates and ask for questions."
Hutchinson noted that the Legislative Finance Committee would require the update as well.
In discussion on the preliminary budget for fiscal year 2021, the amount is $946,800.
"We have to make some changes, as we have amendments to the present budget and some changes," Gutierrez said.
Sera, who as Deming city manager serves as the entity's second fiscal agent, noted they include an increase in PERA and insurance.
"There is also an increase in the budget for planning and design to get to the final design," Gutierrez said. "We are requesting an additional $155,000 to professional services. Otherwise it would be a flat budget."
The budget was approved.
The line item adjustments were also approved.
Authorization to send Gutierrez and Domenici to meet with the Secretary of the Interior was discussed and approved.
Van "Bucky" Allred, representing Catron County, asked if it would be appropriate to send a board member, and he then recommended sending Hutchinson.
The motion was amended to included Hutchinson along with Gutierrez and Domenici.
"I will go on my own money," Hutchinson said. "My travel will not be billed to the CAP Entity."
Gutierrez, during his executive director report, recognized Topper Thorpe, former Interstate Stream Commission member.
"I want to thank him for all the support he's given us," Gutierrez said. "He's been hog-tied in his vote because he has often had to recuse himself."
Gutierrez said he been working with the engineer on the business plan and providing data to Reclamation. "The latter has been minimal. I'm also working on moving forward with our proposed action. Working on the business plan has been different for me. We've been working early and late." He said he has received the quarterly report from Reclamation on their expenditures. "I also have put together a letter to the ISC Chairman Mark Sanchez as an update to the new ISC members, with a history and an update to where we're at."
Domenici said the entity received a "terse" letter from the ISC not to make any more changes to the proposed action. "It was straight forward: 'We will not work with you on more changes or it will cause delays. Funding is tight.'"
"I went to Virden and met with farmers down there, and I met with Aaron (Sera) on what Virden and Deming are looking for from the CAP Entity," Domenici continues. "Both were productive meetings. In Virden, I got a good understanding of what they want. The business plan uses the term water security. That includes water supply security and water timing security. That term is coming from a variety of meetings. There continue to be PR inquiries. A report, which includes interviews with a lot of opponents and an interview with me, will be on TV this weekend (Aug. 10)."
Sera said he voted against the preliminary business plan at the prior meeting, "because we weren't in it. I thank Mr. Verhines, Anthony and Pete for coming down. We spent several hours discussing it. We have more than 1,000 people unemployed. A huge development wanted to come in, but we couldn't offer 3,000 acre-feet of water. So, that's why it's now in the business plan."
Gutierrez said the three did not visit the San Francisco, "because I think they have a clear identity of operations in the plan."
"We're used to it," Hutchinson said in reference to not being visited. He asked if the extension were for the environmental impact statement.
"No, the extension is for the record of decision," Domenici replied.
Verhines, who served in the past New Mexico administration, said it was a pleasure to have recent ISC member, Topper Thorpe, in attendance. "He was a true gentleman and a true asset to the board. Even though they represent specific regions, they work hard for the state overall."
Hutchinson made a comment on PR (public relations). "Pete, you've done your interview. I marvel at the opponents' ability to keep repeating misinformation and marvel at their inability to dig up facts. The Gila is not the last free-flowing river in the southwest. I've read the same thing about the San Pedro. We have heard that phrase used on several different rivers in the Southwest, as well as in the rest of the country. It is designed to elicit an emotional response and an emotional perspective toward proposed projects. It is not designed to convey a factual idea. It is designed to be disruptive. They have a great many other talking points they have managed to proliferate that confuse our elected leaders and confuse the public, and they are designed to do that. They have been very effective in doing that. And we have not been effective at conveying the facts to the public."
The next regular meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, at the Grant County Administration Center Commissioners' Room.