Local Viewpoints
3:11 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Senate Democratic Leader To File Bill To Prioritize New Mexico Water Projects

Credit Senate Majority Leader Michael S. Sanchez (D-29- Bernalillo & Valencia).

  Santa Fe –Currently, there are seven different agencies that distribute money for water projects across the state. According to a report from the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) dated November 21, 2013, “a lack of coordination and fragmentation exists between those funding programs” and “… few share resources or coordinate funding to maximize financing.”

If this is so, then why is Governor Martinez proposing an additional $112 million for water projects from the capital outlay budget to be managed by these same agencies? While the administration and legislators can both agree that the state’s water crisis should be a top priority, one legislator in particular believes an efficient system must be created before handing over such a large sum of taxpayer dollars to the administration.

“I plan to file a bill specifically designed to assure that the state’s water system benefits as a whole by appointing one agency as a central point for all water project applications to go through in order to receive funds. This strategically coordinated application process will be overseen by a single entity to acquire and coordinate funds in ways that avoid what the LFC describes as wasteful duplication of effort. It also helps identify the state’s most dire water needs and helps lawmakers make sound decisions about where the monies need to be allocated,” said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-29-Bernalillo & Valencia).

As the system exists, agencies have their own individual requirements and funding criteria. No collaborative efforts have been made between agencies to come up with a competent and fair solution to bring order and create efficiency when distributing monies to water organizations.  This has also become an issue for existing loan programs, like those managed by the state’s Environment Department (NMED).

According to the LFC report, New Mexico has the highest percentage of Drinking Water State Revolving Fund balances for unspent federal water funds in the nation. This is simply because water agencies would much rather apply for grants than deal with loans. Currently, the Wastewater Facility Construction Loan Fund has a balance of $105.4 million. The fund is also managed by NMED and is made up mostly of federal dollars. According to NMED, $54.6 million have been committed through loan agreements to communities around the state.   The legislature has yet to receive a report from NMED on details of those loans agreements. The legislature has also yet to receive plans from Governor Martinez on what she proposes to do with the requested additional, aforementioned $112 million.

“While I am in favor of providing funds for water projects, I believe it would be in the best interest of citizens and the good of our state to assess the water issues as a whole and organize a way in which to be most effective,” added Sen. Sanchez.