Conchas Lake levels raise concerns
April 9, 2013
More than a dozen residents attended the Arch Hurley Conservancy District meeting Tuesday to speak with state and federal legislators about Conchas Lake levels.
"I am an advocate of agriculture in the legislature," said State Sen. Pat Woods.
The district members have not had an allocation of water in five years and several years prior to that they only received a partial allocation due to the low water levels at Conchas Lake, which supplies the district with irrigation water.
The lake has a current elevation of 4,154 feet, which is 46 feet below the spillway. There was an inflow of 486 acre feet last month with 668 acre feet being lost to evaporation, said Franklin McCasland, district manager.
McCasland said the current low levels at the lake have presented the district with an opportunity to remove dirt, which has been blocking their main inlet. He said the soil has prevented the district from access to 24,000 acre-feet of water, which could have been allocated to the members.
"The main thing preventing us from moving the soil is we have to follow the Clean Water Act," said Jason Latham, of the Army Corps of Engineers.
Latham said the corps has to have an Environmental Assessment completed before the soil can be moved from the inlet to another location at the lake. He said the assessment may take some time and the actual removal of the dirt would be done in June, unless rainfall raises the water level preventing the equipment from accessing the site.
The importance needs to be stressed about having the work done before the water level rises and prevents us from removing the dirt and getting water to the members of the district, said Larry Perkins, district's board president.
McCasland said the district was willing to remove the dirt and complete the work, which would be needed to clean the inlet.
Latham said the corps couldn't sole source the work, though the Bureau of Reclamation could do the work and they would only have to pay per-diem, labor cost and equipment cost.
Legislative representative, Ron Wilmont, representing Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, and Jack Carpenter, representing Sen. Tom Udall said they would speak with the delegate and express the need to expedite the assessment.
"It seems like a no brainer to have this soil removed while there is an opportunity to do so," Woods said.
Woods said he would speak to whomever he could to see this assessment is done and the work can be completed in a timely manner. He said he would relay the information he can to fellow legislators, though the members of the district are encouraged to go to Santa Fe and speak with them individually.
"You as a resident, can bring your concerns and issues to them to make them aware of what is going on," Woods said. "This is an emergency to the people inside this room. If you were to approach them and show them the impact of this situation it would be seen as such to those outside this room."
McCasland told the board, members and guest that Woods had also secured $190,000 in capital outlay money for the district for the purchase of equipment.
"I would like to personally thank Senator Pat Woods for being a friendly voice and supporter for the rural farmer and rancher," McCasland said.
McCasland said because of his efforts, the district received the large allocation of capital outlay money, which shows his support of the district and it's members.
Others items considered by the board:
- No allocation of water.
- Approved renewal of a4 percent interest rate on an Interstate Streams Commission loan.
- Approved an amendment to the policies and bylaws.