The State of New Mexico continued to gather funds for work to resume at the Carlsbad Brine Well after Eddy County agreed to set aside money for the project.
Work paused in July 2020 by the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (ENMRD) as additional funds were needed to continue the project where U.S. Highways 62/180 and 285 converge to form the South Y.
Tuesday, Eddy County Board of County Commissioners approved $1.5 million in funds for final implementation of remediation work.
According to Eddy County Commission documents, $18 million was needed to finish the work.
ENMRD secured $5 million in a special appropriation from House Bill 2 (HB-2) during the last New Mexico Legislative session. Another special appropriation of $10 million from the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s (DOT) State Road Fund was set aside, per county records.
Eddy County and the City of Carlsbad provided the remaining $3 million combined for the work, county documents indicated.
Eddy County Manager Allen Davis said local officials had several talks with ENMRD Secretary Sarah Cottrell-Propst on funding the project.
“We talked about the monies that have been committed to date,” he said.
According to Eddy County documents, original appropriations and contributions for the work was $54 million and $49 million was spent through Nov. 6, 2020.
The Wood Group, an engineering firm, estimated the cost to finish the project was $24 million and there was $3.2 million in estimated cost reductions, county documents read.
The remaining fund balance was $3.8 million, per the documents.
“My recommendation is you that you approve the agreement,” Davis said to commissioners.
“This agreement is principally about the money. The State needs the City and County’s commitment before they can go, according to House Bill 2 to say we have the firm commitment.”
Davis said if the County and City did not commit the money then funds from the State would have been at risk.
“The governor has made her opinion clear, there’s no more State money after this,” he said.
Steve McCutcheon, commission chairperson, credited Davis for arranging a settlement for the Brine Well money.
“If you had not negotiated the last round, I wouldn’t have had the confidence and trust not to vote yes on this, so we do appreciate you handling the rest of this,” he said.
Kyle Marksteiner, City of Carlsbad spokesperson, said the City Council will vote on the measure on June 8.
ENMRD Spokesperson Susan Torres said Eddy County’s vote puts the State closer to finishing the project.
“We thank the commission for their continued support of this project. Once the City of Carlsbad votes on their funding we will be able to resume work quickly after and will keep the public updated when remediation will restart,” she said.
In the past, ENMRD stated the south portion of the Brine Well was backfilled and stabilized. While the north portion was partially filled and stabilized.
The Carlsbad Brine Well operated from 1978 to 2008 as a source of salt-laden water for use in oil well drilling. Fresh water was pumped into the subsurface to dissolve subsurface salt layers, creating a brine that was pumped out and trucked to the oil fields for use in drilling and completions. Removal of the salt created an underground cavity and a risk of collapse of the overlying ground, read the ENMRD website.
The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (OCD) recognized the hazard in Carlsbad after a brine well near Artesia collapsed in July 2008. A second brine well north of Loco Hills collapsed months later.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at MSmith@currentargus.com or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.