ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of South Valley residents says a recently constructed canal in their neighborhood has become a paradise for mosquitoes, but a living nightmare for them.
Los Padillas extension runs east and west and is a connector between the Isleta and Los Padillas drains, which both run north to south. The concerned residents live along Lakeview Road, which runs parallel to Los Padillas extension and is near Coors and Gun Club.
The drain was installed last year and is part of a larger project in the South Valley meant to deal with flooding by giving runoff water a place to drain, eventually flowing into the Rio Grande. It’s a joint effort between Bernalillo County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority.
But the problem, neighbors say, is the extension channel was poorly built causing water to pool in various places. The stagnant water, they say, provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Emily Esterson has lived on Lakeview Road for 12 years.
“Last year was the single worst mosquito summer we have ever had,” she said. “I can’t say for sure it’s because of the drain, but it was the first time that standing water was there.”
The drain runs directly behind the property of Larry and Susan Elliott. The couple, and their neighbors, Percy and Kathy Leyba, who live across the street from them, met Wednesday morning to discuss the issue.
Susan Elliott has extra reason to be concerned. Five years ago, she contracted the West Nile virus. She has lived in her home since 1989 and said although the property is surrounded by farmland, mosquitoes have never been that much of a problem.
“Last (summer) it was so bad, I had to run from house to my car to avoid getting bitten,” she said. “It was so bad you had to put on all sorts of bug spray just so you could go outside.”
Kathy Leyba goes running in the area and said last summer she was continuously swarmed by mosquitoes.
“Last summer my son was out there trying to paint our fence,” Kathy Leyba said. “I had to stand over him with the bug spray just so he would not get eaten.”
During a tour of the area Wednesday afternoon, swarms of mosquitoes were spotted as well as standing water. Neighbors say they have tried since last year to get it fixed and were hoping it would be resolved by the time the summer came. They met with county officials last summer. However, County Commissioner Art De La Cruz said while the county is involved in the project financially, it was not responsible for the construction. He said has urged the other agencies to resolve the problem.
“I’ve said I will not have a ribbon cutting on this until this is resolved,” De La Cruz said. “As long as there is standing water, this is not resolved.”
John D’Antonio, deputy district engineer for programs and project management for the Army Corps of Engineers, said neighbors only recently contacted the corps, but he has started the process to get it resolved. He said the drain may not have been properly constructed and the corps will try the least expensive method first to solve the problem.
“Apparently, it’s a little lower than the plans and specs called for,” he said. “One of the recommended solutions is to regrade it so it’s uniform. There are a lot of unknowns right now and we want to progressively solve this problem.”
Jerry Lovato, executive engineer for AMAFCA, said his organization is also aware of the situation. Lovato said AMAFCA recently toured the area and made notes of some issues and passed that along to the corps.
“It’s obvious there is not a clean line from point A to point B,” he said. “It does not take a genius to go out there and look at it and say this is not built the way it was supposed to be built.”