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The Corrales siphon that serves 1,000 acres with Rio Grande water is inoperable this year, prompting the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to install a pair of diesel pumps and pipes to deliver water directly from the river into the village’s main canal.
The Corrales project site could impact recreation along the river just south of Trailhead Beach.
Alicia Lopez, the district’s engineering and mapping manager, said crews found a sinkhole from leaks in the 1,200-foot long pipe constructed in 1933.
“Because of the age and condition of the pipe, we discontinued use of the siphon while we decide on our long-term solution there,” Lopez said.
AUI Inc. received a $911,000 contract to install two diesel-powered pumps and 350 feet of buried pipelines that will convey river water into the main canal.
The district eventually wants to switch the diesel pumps to electric versions. But that may not be possible this year.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggested ways to protect wildlife at the site.
“Fish screens were placed on the intakes and we executed a silvery minnow egg-monitoring contract with SWCA (environmental consultants) to begin on May 1, to coincide with those high spawning periods,” Lopez said.
The district will likely need to inspect the pipe interior with cameras to find permanent repair options.
Loud pumps and concrete barricades may be a “nuisance” for riverside walkers, but are necessary for farmers, said Jason Casuga, the district’s CEO and chief engineer.
“I do think generally anybody in the village of Corrales who recreates in that area and irrigates understands this,” he said.
One acre is the minimum requirement for most irrigators in this year’s district emergency fallowing program.
But, because of the repairs, the district allowed Corrales irrigators to enroll less than one acre in the program that pays farmers not to water fields for a season.
Water distribution manager Matt Martinez said “quick and efficient” irrigation will make the emergency project most effective.
He pointed to a Corrales farm that recently had a ditch turnout only part way open, even though the property had the capacity to take more water.
“We need to take irrigation deliveries as quickly as possible so the next irrigator in line can get going, and so that we can move through cycles quicker,” Martinez said. “Irrigators should be prepared to take water during the day or at night.”
Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.