Water, both the lack of it and the possibility of floods, was the topic of discussion at the Belen City Council meeting Monday evening.

Michael Trujillo, water planning coordinator for the Middle Rio Grande Council of Governments, updated the council about a regional water plan that is being developed for the middle Rio Grande area.

“The Water Resources Board, in partnership with the volunteers of the Water Assembly, is studying the supply and demands of water in the region,” Trujillo said. “They are now identifying and analyzing alternative actions for water management in the area.”

Trujillo presented a graph that displayed the areas where water is used. “We have a deficit of 55,000 acre feet per year,” he said. “The two areas which cause the largest use of water are evaporation from Elephant Butte Reservoir, at 27 percent, and riparian, or foreign vegetation use, at 26 percent.”

He pointed out there are restoration projects in the Rio Grande bosque that are removing riparian plants, such as salt cedar and Russian olive, which use a higher level of water than native plants.

Rounding out the use is irrigated agriculture consumption, at 19 percent, domestic uses, at 11 percent, open water evaporation, at 11 percent and office, commercial and industrial use, at 6 percent.

“When the plan is completed, it will be used by the state engineer’s office and the Interstate Stream Commission to manage the area’s water,” he said. “Also from the plan, you (City of Belen) will determine ordinances for water conservation.”

At the other end of the spectrum regarding water in the area, the council named Fred Gallegos the city’s certified flood plain manager and heard a report by him regarding a visit to Belen by Bill Borthwick, the State Office of Emergency Management’s national flood insurance program coordinator.

“A community assistance visit was done by Borthwick on March 7 and 8,” Gallegos said. “The reason for the visit was to review our participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and to address any questions about the program and the community’s responsibilities.”

The City of Belen entered into an agreement with the National Flood Insurance Program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1982 with an ordinance to regulate flood plain areas within the city.

“This is a voluntary program based on a mutual agreement between the federal government and the local community,” Gallegos said of NFIP. “Flood insurance and most types of federal financial assistance, such as mortgage loans and community grants, are only available in those communities that adopt and enforce a flood plain ordinance that meets or exceeds the minimum NFIP standards.”

The purpose of the NFIP regulations is to promote public health, safety and general welfare and to minimize public and private losses due to flood conditions in specific areas.

Gallegos said, during Borthwick’s visit, they toured the flood plain areas, new subdivisions, mobile home parks and schools and reviewed all permits issued in the special flood hazard areas.

“We received a report from Borthwick that had four deficiencies,” he said. “One of the citations involved homes which were not in the specific flood hazard area. I am filing the paperwork to rectify the other items.

Those deficiencies are:

  • The City of Belen does not have a system in place with the Manufactured Home Division that monitors the placement of new manufactured homes in special flood hazard areas.

“I have explained to Mr. Borthwick that we are requiring elevation certification on new placements as well as being properly elevated and anchored before we authorize PNM to connect to the home,” Gallegos said.

  • Development permanent-process forms need to be in order.

“This is a new legal document that is required to be filled out by the developer or homeowner, and I will submit the development permits to Mr. Borthwick,” Gallegos said.

  • Enforcement of requirements that two homes at Sunrise Bluffs have retention ponds to capture runoff.

“I explained to Mr. Borthwick that those two homes were in existence prior to the city annexing them and therefore are grandfathered in. Also, I explained that the homes are not located in the special flood hazard area,” Gallegos said.

  • Annexation of property in Valencia County into the city limits has resulted in jurisdictional changes. These have not been reported to FEMA as required.

“We have records of all annexations, and I will be sending those to Mr. Borthwick,” Gallegos said.

“Overall, Mr. Borthwick seemed pleased with how well the city administers the flood plain ordinance, and, in his final meeting with City Manager Sally Garley and myself, he did say that our recordkeeping and the public outreach information that I keep in my office were rock solid,” Gallegos said.

In other agenda items, Garley reported in her city manager’s report:

  • Mildred Garley, Margie Maestas and Garley attended the Clerks and Finance Officers spring conference in Tucumcari, April 24-26.
  • Mayor Ronnie Torres, Councilors Terese Uilvarri, Rudy Jaramillo and David Lopez and Garley met with the New Mexico Congressional delegations in Washington, D.C., while lobbying for the city’s request for a federal appropriation to fund repairs on the solid waste collection system.
  • The Chavez-Perizzette street project is well under way. The curb, gutters and pavement are already completed, with the sidewalks scheduled for this week.
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Jane Moorman