County halts work on proposed wells

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County Council Chair Geoff Rodgers and Utilities Board Vice Chair Tim Neal jointly announced Friday all activity will cease on the proposed test wells in White Rock Canyon to develop the County’s San Juan/Chama water rights.  

The hiatus is intended to give councilors time to better understand issues surrounding the San Juan/Chama water rights, determine appropriate policy steps, and provide direction to the Board of Public Utilities, according to a statement released by the county.  

Public concerns over the test wells were voiced during a May 23 Special Board of Public Utilities meeting and on the county’s “Open Forum” page.   Rodgers emphasized that the community as a whole owns the water rights and therefore, it is important for the council to weigh in on this issue.

“The Councilors are committed to thoroughly examining and evaluating the 40-year Water Plan, the County’s San Juan/Chama water rights, and previous council policy direction to the Board of Public Utilities,” he said.

An independent legal review several years ago recommended that the county take steps to secure the water rights in order to avoid losing the rights in the future. The recommendation has been the driving force for the Utilities Department to proceed, with alternatives documented in a feasibility study prepared by CDM-Smith and presented to the council last year.

The study documented various alternatives and a wide range of costs for developing the water with a preferred option to drill test wells located in White Rock Canyon, preserved open space near Pajarito Acres and La Senda subdivisions in White Rock.

The councilors attended the special Board of Public Utilities meeting which included a site tour and town hall discussion in White Rock on May 23.

“We appreciate the concerns and questions that residents have raised to us about the project, and we want to better understand the water rights issues and past policy discussions that have taken place,” Rodgers said. “We will be working with the Utilities Board closely so that we both agree upon a path forward that is in the best interest of everyone. I would like to assure Pajarito Acres, La Senda and White Rock residents that no action will be taken until a path has been identified and clearly communicated with them, with additional opportunities for their input before formal board or council action.”
Neal echoed Rodgers’ statement, adding that the board welcomes the opportunity to have a joint discussion with council to review past decisions and work together toward an option that is amenable for everyone involved.

Rodgers said that no date for the joint Council/Utilities Board discussion has been set yet, but it is estimated to take place within the next 60 to 90 days as a council work session. No formal action would occur at the work session, which would be held in White Rock Fire Station #3.