Santa Fe water project lawsuit settled for $36 million

Sean P. Thomas, The Santa Fe New Mexican
·2 min read

Apr. 9—The board of the Santa Fe city and county's joint Buckman Direct Diversion agreed to a $36 million settlement last week in a lawsuit against firms responsible for designing and constructing the water project, the agreement shows.

The settlement wraps up a portion of a case the board filed in 2018 after a variety of issues were discovered with the river diversion, including concerns over piping and raw-water pumps.

The settlement was between CH2M Hill/Western Summit Constructors, referred to in the settlement as Joint Ventures Parties, which handled construction and design for the decade-old project.

According to the settlement documents, neither party admitted wrongdoing. The agreement does not include CDM Smith Inc., the firm that handled the project's engineering work.

They also state $35 million of the payout will go toward the release of any claims of breach of contract, professional negligence or breach of fiduciary duty against JV Parties. The remaining $1 million will release the defendants and their subconsultant, HDM Engineering, from future claims.

CH2M Hill/Western Summit Constructors said in a statement on the settlement: "The Buckman Project has been the subject of an ongoing, costly and strongly contested dispute between the Joint Venture and the Buckman Direct Diversion Board. The JV and the Board have agreed to resolve their disagreements concerning the Project without further litigation. No party to the settlement has admitted fault or wrongdoing."

The Buckman project, completed in 2011, diverts water from the Rio Grande to a water treatment plant for use by consumers in the Santa Fe area.

Since its start, the diversion has been rife with problems, including consternation over corrosive sand particles making their way into the water system. The issues have been costly, with the board allocating at least $500,000 to fix four raw-water pumps at the site combined with other issues.

Buckman board Chairwoman and Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen declined to comment on the settlement.

The board released a statement saying the settlement will allow it "to address some of the difficulties encountered at the Project since its completion. The lawsuit will continue against one other defendant."