Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988

Flood project shrinks after feds object

—Bill Diven

A flood-control project intended to protect Bernalillo is being scaled back after the feds decided that the proposed dam was too close to Interstate 25.

While the delay is minor in terms of time, and might even save a little money, the new design won’t hold back as much water, said Larry Blair, executive engineer of the Eastern Sandoval Arroyo Flood Control Authority. Construction of the redesigned Cañon del Agua East Dam is still expected to start this month, he added.

Also known as the Fisher Dam, the project is on the 11.5 acres that Fisher Sand and Gravel donated to the town of Bernalillo as part of the agreement approved in January to annex the 43-acre quarry into the town. Fisher agreed to excavate the arroyo first and essentially leave a ponding area there ready for use in flood control.

The agreement also allowed Fisher to resume quarrying operations after a two-year shutdown but with hours limited to weekdays and under a seven-year deadline to complete excavations plus two more years to remove stockpiled material.

Blair said ESCAFCA knew that the dam design encroached on the undeveloped fifty-foot right-of-way for a frontage road east of Interstate 25. It also extended about twenty feet into the three hundred-foot I-25 right-of-way.

While the New Mexico Department of Transportation approved the plan, the Federal Highway Administration ruled against it in mid-October.

“So we have to redesign the dam,” Blair told the Signpost. “That will reduce its capacity and change some other characteristics… The dam is being moved east about eighty feet.”

The original design would have contained 45 acre-feet of water, releasing it slowly into an existing arroyo leading under I-25 to the Bernalillo Acequia near South Hill Road. Blair said he won’t know until the new design is done how much the capacity will be reduced.

Protecting the town from a theoretical one-hundred-year flood in that arroyo would require holding back eighty acre-feet of water. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.

By the time the feds rejected the plan, ESCAFCA had already awarded a $1.8 million dollar contract to Salls Brothers Construction Inc. of Albuquerque for a November 1 project start. That is now being renegotiated, although the company, which has done other work for ESCAFCA, “understands the dilemma and is working with us,” Blair said.

Since the smaller project may require less work and material, the final price may be less, he added.

The earthen dam will remain 28 feet high, although its new width is still to be determined. The contractor, after stripping away about ten feet of sand and gravel, will reach a layer of clay and silt that can be used for compacting as the dam structure, Blair said.

A good rain year

—Jim Fish

For twenty-four years, I have been tracking the rainfall at the winery in the Historic Village of Placitas. In the case of snow, I estimate the rainfall equivalent by melting snow to determine moisture content. I start the year in October because what happens in the fall and winter controls the flow of the village springs the following spring and summer. Higher spring flows can make up for a bad monsoon season and visa versa.

This plot for the year that just ended is marked with the red dots in this graph. It was a below-normal winter, a good spring, and a good summer for a little better-than-average overall.

The worst year was 2010-2011 with 1999-2000 only slightly better. 2005-2006 started out as one of the worst years and ended with the highest total for the year ending in September. You may recall the flood during the summer of 2006. 2009-2010 was a much better year with good moisture spread out more evenly over the year. The three worst fall-winter combinations have been 1995-1996, 2005-2006 and 2012-2013. The best have been 1997-1998, 2000-2001, and 2004-2005. The three best years overall, with moisture spread out nicely over the year, have been 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and last year.

Erosion control project—volunteers needed

—Patricia Bolton, Supervisor, Coronado SWCD

The Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District erosion control project in the Placitas Open Space will kick off with a training workshop for project volunteers. This innovative project is designed to demonstrate how a small effort can be the beginning of a longer-term endeavor to stabilize slopes and restore native vegetation in degraded areas in the Placitas Open Space. This area has very delicate soils, and the work must be done by hand. Although working on the approximately 350 acres in need of treatment by hand is more than daunting, it is the only way to retrieve the stable grassland savanna of the pre-European era.

Located in the lower Las Huertas watershed, the area is popular with hikers, birders, and wildflower enthusiasts and part of a crucial wildlife corridor between the Sandia and Jemez mountains.

The workshop, being taught by Jim Brooks of Soilutions, a company that uses permaculture and other techniques to restore damaged land, will be held on November 4 and repeated on November 7. More volunteers are welcome to sign up in time to participate in the initial training. Even those who do not want to volunteer for the ongoing work in the Open Space can benefit from the morning classroom session of the workshop, to learn the principles of applying the simple techniques to their own landscaping activities in the Placitas area (See Community Calendar, this Signpost, November 4 and 7).

The training workshop will start with an hour classroom presentation about how and why the simple techniques carried out with hand tools can slow erosion and promote the re-growth of appropriate native vegetation. In the afternoon, the registered volunteers will then go to the project worksite in the Placitas Open Space to get some hands-on practice.

The team of volunteers will continue applying the techniques throughout the winter to two acres of the Open Space. These techniques, along with the reseeding of native grasses, are designed to stabilize slopes, slow run-off, and enhance moisture retention. Using only hand tools, further ecological impact is minimized as the work progresses. To gauge the success of the innovative permaculture methods, the conditions of the demonstration area compared to other areas will be monitored during the project. For more information, see

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