Campaign launched for dam funds

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By Martin Salazar

Back in November, the stars appeared to be aligning for the city to get the millions it is seeking for a major expansion of Bradner Reservoir.

At the time, Gov. Martinez had just announced that she would ask state lawmakers to spend $112 million or about 60 percent of the capital outlay funds available for distribution this year on water infrastructure projects.

In her announcement, Martinez specifically mentioned the city of Las Vegas and other communities that “are dangerously close to (water) shortages.”

The state Environment Department announced last week that it would be pushing for nearly $4 million for two other city water and wastewater projects, but state officials have been quiet on whether they plan to support this city’s request for $16 million to help with the dam expansion.

Nevertheless, city officials are pressing ahead with their Bradner Dam request, and they are asking area residents and businesses to reach out to the governor and state lawmakers to let them know just how important this project is.

The city has begun running radio spots asking area residents to write letters of support for the project, and to address those letters to Gov. Martinez. Listeners are told to get those letters to Mayor Alfonso Ortiz so he can deliver them to the governor.

“We must remember that water isn’t a luxury, but is a necessity to insure our quality of life, our health and that of our children, our grand children and for future generations to come,” radio listeners are told. “Securing our water storage is vital for our business community, our schools, hospitals, churches and every household.”

The city’s Community Development Department and city councilors have also been going to local businesses asking them to sign letters of support for the project.

The Bradner Reservoir project is the centerpiece of the city’s efforts to get its aging water system on solid footing.

Bradner can currently hold about 300 acre-feet of water. The planned expansion would allow the city to store 2,300 acre-feet of water, which, according to city officials, would add 12 months of storage under current demand conditions.

City consultants have determined that the added storage is critical to help the city get through a sustained drought or a fire in the watershed that supplies about 90 percent of the city’s water.

The city has already received $2 million in funding to design the project, and it is hoping to begin construction in November, with completion of the project tentatively set for December 2015.

But all that is contingent on the city acquiring the necessary funding for the $30 million project. Rate increases implemented by the city in recent years will enable the city to get $12 million by issuing revenue bonds. It has already received $2 million in funding for the project, leaving a $16 million gap.

The city is asking the state for that $16 million, calling the Bradner Reservoir expansion its top priority. If that funding doesn’t materialize, the city will either have to implement additional steep rate increases or else postpone or even cancel the project.