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High water flows on Rio Grande spur warnings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — High water from the runoff of an above average snowpack this spring and past winter is expected to continue in the Rio Grande through June, and perhaps well into the summer.

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District on Friday issued a notice to local governments and the public about the 2019 spring runoff, which is anticipated to be the highest the region has experienced since 2005. Much of the bosque will be flooded during this time, and water will be against the levees.

MRGCD chief hydrologist David Gensler said people with recreational plans along the river should keep their guard up because of it.

“People who like to hike along the Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam down to Elephant Butte need to be aware that some areas are going to be flooded,” Gensler said. “People who like to go boating or rafting need to be aware of the greater than normal depth and velocity of the river, and the debris.”

There will be high river flows on both the main stem of the Rio Grande and the Rio Chama for a sustained period of time. Multiple agencies, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, are coordinating with the conservancy district to monitor and manage flow through the middle Rio Grande region. Abiquiu and Cochiti reservoirs provide flood control, regulating the amount of water passing through to the Corps of Engineers’ specified downstream “safe channel capacity.”

“We’re letting people know that we’re monitoring things and repairing things as they happen,” Gensler said.

The conservancy district is actively monitoring and maintaining the levees, particularly the older “spoil bank” levees south of Albuquerque.

“We don’t expect the water to get out of the levees,” Gensler said.

The district will be working closely with Corps of Engineers to regulate releases out of Cochiti Dam. Gensler said water is flowing out of the dam at 4,800 cubic feet per second, after being as high as 5,500.

“We’re expecting it to get back up to 5,500 or 6,000,” he said. “The Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the release from the dam. They’re not going to release more water than the valley can handle.”

Due to construction crews and equipment moving along the levees and drain roads, the district is closing public access to the levee roads, drains and bosque between the south boundary of Isleta Pueblo to Reinken Road in Belen in order to protect the safety of the general public. The conservancy district may also temporarily close levee/bosque access in other areas to safely complete levee maintenance.

Closure signs will be posted to prohibit entry even though gates may be open for construction traffic. The duration of closures will coincide with the duration of the high flow period and the public will be notified when this order is lifted.

If anyone wishes to report what they believe is a violation of this closure, or erosion or water seepage is noticed along the riverside levees anywhere within the conservancy district, contact the district’s main office at 505-247-0234 day or night and report the information.

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