Council receives EBRIF briefing

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By Jennifer Garcia

Working to promote a regional understanding among the member governments and mutual fact finding about specific water and wastewater issues, as well as discussing projects on a regional basis are just a few of the Española Basin Regional Issues Forum’s main goals.

During Tuesday night’s county council meeting held in White Rock, Charlie Nylander, of Water Matters LLC, provided councilors with a briefing on not only the goals of the EBRIF, but also an overview of the organization’s activities.

Nylander started the briefing by telling councilors that the organization is about four-and-a-half years old and has 14 committee members. “We knew the first couple of years would be for relationship building for city, county and tribal entities,” Nylander said.

EBRIF members include Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe counties; Cochiti, Nambé, Ohkay Owingeh, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Picuris, Pojoaque and Tesuque pueblos, as well as the cities of Santa Fe and Española. The organization has adopted a charter and has met monthly since August 2004. “The county has agreed to $250,000 a year in funding for EBRIF,” Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro said.

The organization has also developed a five-year strategic business plan that reflects over $600 million worth of needs. In addition, the EBRIF has discussed and supported collaborative, regional water and wastewater projects including: The Pojoaque Regional Wastewater Project, the Buckman Direct Diversion Project, City of Española Water Supply and Treatment Project, Ohkay Owingeh/City of Española Water and Wastewater Projects, Santa Cruz Irrigation District/Santa Cruz Dam Project, Sombrillo Wastewater Project, Alcalde Preliminary Engineering report. In addition, they have also supported legislation for funding water and wastewater projects during the past four sessions of the New Mexico Legislature.

Nylander told councilors that half of the funding they receive from the various members has been set aside for special project work. He said that the preliminary 2009 engineer’s report for the Alcalde and Velarde areas showed limited water service and severe septic contamination. “They’re in need of good water and a good sewer system,” Nylander said. “This is a good example of how the project dollars have been set aside.”

He also told councilors that Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, Santa Fe and Taos, has introduced two bills, SB330 and SB335, for statewide programs. “SB330 is on its way to the senate finance committee,” Nylander commented. He also stated that both bills have appropriations in them, but the EBRIF is working with Cisneros in order to strip the appropriations out of the bills.

Councilors, for the most part, did not have any questions for Nylander, however, Councilor Sharon Stover did express interest in the EBRIF’s sources of funding. “You get $250,000 from the county, but do you have other support?” Stover asked.

“We have funding from other counties for different projects,” Nylander answered. “We look for matching contributions from recipient areas.”

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle wanted to know what sort of wastewater problems the EBRIF and affected communities face. Nylander said that septic tank contamination and public health issues are the biggest problems for communities. “Pojoaque just developed a new wastewater treatment plant when the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino was built,” he said.

Each major governmental entity within the Española Basin is an EBRIF member and is represented by at least one person and one alternate, duly designated by its respective governmental entity. The representative is entrusted to speak and respond on behalf of his or her governmental entity, as well as participate by apprising his or her entity of issues and topics that arise.