Officials in both Rio Arriba and Santa Fe County are hoping to secure state funding for a long-delayed dam upgrade project.
Located just to the north of New Mexico State Road 76, the dam, one of seven built to protect residents and farmlands from flooding, belongs to the Santa Fe-Pojoaque Soil and Water Conservation District, and is considered to be at risk of structural failure.
The dam is referred to as both the Santa Cruz Site 1 Dam and the Canada Ancha Floodwater Retarding Structure and is located just to the northeast of the town of Chimayo.
In a column for the Santa Fe New Mexican, Sigmund Silber, supervisor of the conservation district, said the reason for facility’s precarious condition is due to its age and “the fact that the watershed has one of the highest sedimentation rates in the U.S.”
That sedimentation rate relates to the erosion of the basin draining into the dam.
Should the dam ultimately fail, Silber and other experts have warned, it could lead to a flood that would cause the death of thousands of residents and tens of millions of dollars in physical damage.
In response, the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation District has announced plans for the design of a rehabilitated dam.
Should Washington ultimately give its approval to what could be at the very least an $18 million project, the conservation district would be tasked with contributing a third of that amount.
Dedicated in the fall of 1962, the Santa Cruz Site 1 Dam, along with the half a dozen other dams in the district, originally cost around half a million in federal funding to build.
By Garry Boulard
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