Sandoval Signpost


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  Around Town

Sal Reyes, chairman of the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority, speaks during the dedication of the Cañon del Agua East dam in Bernalillo. Behind him is the outlet structure that controls release of capture storm runoff.

The Cañon del Agua East dam and ponding area cover 4.5 acres adding flood protection to part of eastern Bernalillo.
Photos credit: —Bill Diven

ESCAFCA completes one flood dam while second hits snag

~Bill Diven

As a new 15-foot-tall dam reduces the flood risk in Bernalillo, a similar structure planned for Algodones is caught in a struggle over how much to pay for needed land.

In late September, the Eastern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (ESCAFCA) formally dedicated the dam and detention pond on the Cañon del Agua East Arroyo. But by then, the 4.5-acre site already had contained storm runoff that would have flowed into Bernalillo.

“On August 22, there was one or two feet of water behind the dam,” ESCAFCA Executive Engineer Larry Blair told the Signpost. “That’s five to ten acre-feet of water that could have flooded South Hill Road.”

An acre-foot is nearly 326,000 gallons, so up to 3.26 million gallons was held back and released slowly back into the arroyo through outlet piping. The capacity of the dam located east of Interstate 25 near the south Bernalillo exit is 45 acre-feet.

“You can see what kind of effect this would have on protecting Bernalillo from floodwaters,” ESCAFCA chairman Sal Reyes said during the September 20 dedication ceremony. “This is a keystone of our projects.”

In lieu of a bottle of champagne, Reyes shattered a bottle of the August floodwater against the drain structure to make the dedication official.

The dam and pond aren’t designed to contain the hypothetical one-hundred-year flood, but they will reduce the rate of water flowing into the neighborhood west of South Hill Road town by nearly two-thirds, according to ESCAFCA. Floods in 2013 damaged homes and collapsed part of the Bernalillo acequia.

Salls Brothers Construction Inc. of Albuquerque built the $1.8 million facility designed by the engineering firm Huitt-Zollars Inc. While actual construction went smoothly, the project hit two unexpected speed bumps.

First, the Federal Highway Administration overturned a state decision allowing the dam to encroach on the I-25 right-of-way, which moved the dam 75 feet upstream. And after construction began, the State Land Office asserted its ownership of the mineral rights and eventually took a $130,000 royalty payment for the dirt dug from the arroyo and piled nearby.

But the job also benefited from Fisher Sand & Gravel donating 11 acres of its quarry to the project and mining what became the detention pond as a condition of being annexed into Bernalillo in January 2015.

Six miles up I-25 ESCAFCA is wrangling with landowner Al Baca over about five acres east of the freeway where the agency hopes to have a similar dam and holding pond in place before summer rains hit next year.

“It will capture two arroyos that caused flooding twice in 2014,” Blair said. “It’s been kind of a bad actor over the years.”

ESCAFCA is using eminent domain to force Baca to sell the land, and the process has reached the point of dueling appraisals. Under the process, ESCAFCA offered its appraised price for the land, Baca obtained his own higher appraisal, and those two appraisers will select a third appraiser.

If ESCAFCA and Baca still can’t then agree on a price, the process moves to District Court. Details of the appraisals have not been released.

Blair said ESCAFCA hopes to bid the project in March and have it done in May.

Meanwhile, activity in Bernalillo includes the town upgrading a section of South Hill Road to include a storm drain that ESCAFCA will connect to the ponding area at Athena Park. ESCAFCA also has hired the Bohannon Huston engineering firm to do a preliminary analysis on moving floodwater from neighborhoods east of the Rail Runner Express tracks to the Rio Grande.

Part of that could expand the Bernalillo acequia which currently can handle about 35 cubic feet per second of irrigation flow to carry up to one hundred cfs. The report to be ready in January will be the basis for determining costs and beginning discussions with the irrigation district and other affected parties, Blair said.

Sandoval County Senior Planner Brad Stebleton observes while planning commissioners (from right) Pat Vester, John Arango, James Madueña and Lonnie Clayton examine the preliminary plat for the proposed Vistas Sandia subdivision.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Stalled Placitas subdivision gets second wind

~Signpost Staff

A proposed subdivision left in the dust when the housing market crashed in 2008 is back on track after winning a new endorsement from the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Meanwhile, a decision on the Placitas Sage Cohousing project—in limbo since May—was on the commission’s meeting agenda for September 28. Vacancies and absences on the commission coupled with one member recusing himself over a conflict of interest have left the panel without a quorum.

The Sage developers want to build duplexes and triplexes totaling 18 homes plus a community building on 6.2 acres in Placitas West. Critics, while supporting the concept of co-housing for senior residents, contend the project isn’t appropriate for their neighborhood and would set a precedent for more condominium projects in Placitas.

Supporters wearing Sage Co-housing T-shirts sat in the front row of the August 24 meeting, saying it was a silent reminder they’re still waiting for the commission to make its recommendation to the County Commission.

Developers of the Vistas Sandia subdivision in northeastern Placitas propose building 11 houses on about 11 acres near the intersection of Camino de las Huertas and Palomino Road. But first they faced neighborhood concerns about small lot sizes, building heights and set backs, water availability, and a plat map that seemed to stub an existing road into a cul-de-sac cutting off direct access to the homes beyond.

After reviewing the plat, commissioners found Camino de la Questa del Aire was simply marked to show the fifty-foot road easement, ending at the subdivision boundary where it shrank to twenty feet. “The intent is that it is open to the public and remains open to the public,” said Jim Strozier of Consensus Planning, the agent for the owner of the land under contract to Santa Fe developer Warren Sacks.

There is one cul-de-sac in the subdivision, Vistas Sandia Court, will be renamed to avoid confusion with Vista Sandia Court in southwest Placitas. The planning staff confirmed the lot sizes were bigger than the required 3/4-acre minimum.

Residents concerned about water supply questioned the validity of using a 2008 water study when more homes have since been built and because some older residents have had to drill new wells. The county, however, defers to the state Environment Department and the State Engineer to review water, wastewater, drainage and conservation plans, and both signed off on the project with some added conditions.

The developer plans on using three shared wells and storage tanks to serve the subdivision.

The planning commissioners voted to recommend the County Commission approve a preliminary plat for the subdivision, which requires a public hearing before that body. If approved, the developer can then prepare the final plat, which also requires approval from the County Commission.

Investigating the paranormal

While you may be a true believer or a true disbeliever in the existence of ghosts, Purple Sage Paranormal, a local paranormal investigations team based in Algodones, New Mexico, will present evidence captured during some of their investigations that may make even the most skeptical think twice. In addition to presenting audio and visual materials, Purple Sage Paranormal will talk about the methodology and use of equipment in investigating the paranormal. Purple Sage Paranormal has investigated many public and private venues throughout western United States, and they have many fascinating experiences to share. The presentation will be on October 29, beginning at 2:00 p.m. at the Placitas Community Library.

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