Time for action to prevent flooding

Editor:

Sometimes when you have a problem and you don’t do anything about it, it comes back to bite you, and that’s what happened in Belen Tuesday (July 6). And once again, the consequences for our community are severe. It’s time to demand action from elected officials, local leaders and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District.

For five years or more, many of us have tried to solve the flooding problems that occurs when storms west of I-25 near Los Lunas and Belen bring heavy rain that comes over the highway and floods homes, streets and farms. Over and over again farmers, ranchers and concerned citizens have asked the authorities to address the faulty infrastructure, and yet the flooding continues.

The recent flood was just another reminder of the lack of an effective approach taken towards managing the water infrastructure near Los Lunas and Belen, including the Highline Canal. We have now had several floods in that area over the past decade.

On Tuesday, it happened again. The Highline Canal, which runs parallel to the interstate, breached in Belen, and the water poured down onto our farms and towns. Downtown Belen had over a foot of water for several hours. The extent of the flood damage up and down the I-25 corridor for farmers has also been significant.

It’s clear the Highline Canal is the weak link in these recurring floods. Authorities seemed to understand the canal’s weaknesses when it planned to withhold water this summer from farmers who rely on the canal for irrigation. The breach in Belen is just the latest example.

The big question is, why hasn’t anything been done about it? We have begged those in charge to take action. And we know what needs to be done. The MRGCD needs to build retention ponds to catch the runoff before it can flood our towns. I have even contributed to this effort by donating 50 acres of land to build the retention ponds. Yet that land sits untouched, and the project has not begun. We’ve even filed lawsuits to try to force action. But nothing has been done.

And now with Tuesday’s storm, we have more flooding, more damage, more senseless destruction. It is time for a solution to the flooding problem because it will only continue to get worse over time. Our farm operates a pecan orchard along I-25, and we have taken all steps possible to stop flooding across our land and below it, but the real solution must come from building the retention ponds above the Highline Canal and draining runoff to a catchment basin at the southern end of the Highline Canal to prevent further breaches. This approach will draw storm water off and relieve pressure on the canal walls.

Doing nothing is clearly irresponsible. We know the problem — flooding. We know the solution — create the retention ponds. We need action to keep flooding from happening again, because if we don’t do anything, it clearly will happen again.

It may take several years to complete a project, but temporary measures can be taken, starting now, to do our best to prevent flooding in the next few years. We urge action on those temporary measures. Also, we need to do more than just have meetings. Meetings aren’t enough. We’ve had meetings for four years and nothing has happened.

We know getting things done can be hard — and expensive. We know that. But now farmers, ranchers and property owners are saying “do something, and start right away.” The rain won’t wait. So, when it comes, let’s be ready for it. Let’s make this a priority going forward.  Let’s get together with a can-do attitude, make plans, put aside petty squabbling, and make the improvements necessary to protect our towns from flooding.

Mike Mechenbier

Los Lunas

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