DOE Officials Say No To San Juan/Chama Well Sites

Test drill in White Rock. Courtesy/LAC


Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities was notified by the Department of Energy that it was not able to grant an easement or right of way on proposed DOE sites for well drilling or construction. Responding to DPU’s request to develop the 1,200-acre-feet of San Juan-Chama water on DOE land in lieu of County property in White Rock, DOE stated in its Jan. 29, letter that the proposed sites were not feasible due to safety, security, cultural and environmental concerns.

A September 2012 preliminary engineering report prepared by CDM-Smith assessed five options and the feasibility of each for DPU to develop its San Juan-Chama surface water right under contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. CDM-Smith recommends the fifth alternative which requires drilling one to three groundwater wells at the edge of White Rock Canyon on County-owned property. 

The wells would be strategically placed to capture groundwater flowing into the Rio Grande and then conveyed through pipelines and tied into White Rock’s water distribution system. The preliminary engineering report is available on the County’s website here.

This alternative was met with opposition from White Rock citizens. Last June, the County Council and Board of Public Utilities put the project on hold and directed the DPU at a subsequent Council meeting in August to initiate discussions with the DOE. Specifically to investigate whether or not the DOE would permit drilling groundwater wells on DOE property to allow the County to develop the San Juan-Chama water right. Further, the Council directed the county attorney to seek a legal opinion on various issues.

As of this date, the county attorney has not received the legal opinion.

Additional information on the project can be found here.