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Report warns of flood danger in wake of Tres Lagunas Fire

SANTA FE, N.M. — The report of a team studying the aftermath of the Tres Lagunas Fire paints a grim picture of the potential for flooding and danger to people, property and stream water quality for the next few years in and around Pecos Canyon east of Santa Fe.

The interagency Burned Area Emergency Response Team is recommending closure of all or part of the 10,200-acre burn area.

It warns of  “very high risk” of loss of life if people find themselves in or downstream of the burn zone in a rainstorm, and that NM 63, the only road through the canyon, would be a “limiting factor” for evacuations in the event of a catastrophic flood or another fire.

The Tres Lagunas Fire, which has burned through steep and narrow drainages in elevations from 7,550 feet to 10,183 feet since late May, has left much of the burn zone devoid of ground cover. In some areas where the fire burned hottest soils are now hydrophobic or water-repellant. All of that adds up to flooding if heavy monsoon rains hit. The fire is now 90 percent contained.

In just a single long paragraph, the BAER team’s report released Monday says this about what to expect in the canyon, a popular fishing and recreational destination along the Pecos River that is dotted with vacation homes, cabins, campgrounds and year-round residences:

“Peak flows are predicted to increase from two to five times across the burn area. Soil erosion will increase by an order of magnitude on the burned area. Residences on private land have a high probability of being affected by sediment and debris torrents from increased peak flows.


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“NM Highway 63 and adjacent private roads may overtop and fail due to increased peak flows and/or from being plugged by floatable debris. Bridges may be weakened or washed out. Public use may be hazardous because of falling trees, flash floods, and falling debris.

“Infrastructure delivery systems may be damaged by hillslope erosion and/or gullying. Residential wells have a high potential of being inundated with storm runoff, providing health and safety issues.”

See more about this story in Wednesday’s Journal..