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Soil & Water Conservation Districts: Dam Inundation Mapping & Emergency Action Planning Project

The New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is working with a team of experts from across New Mexico to assist the state’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Watershed Districts (“Districts”) to bring their jurisdictional dams into compliance with the Office of the State Engineer Dam Safety Bureau’s standards.

In 2014, the New Mexico Legislature provided $1 million to NMDA to provide much needed dam safety documents to Districts. The funding is being utilized to provide Inundation Maps and Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for the jurisdictional dams owned by Districts. The NMDA also received grant funding through the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s (DHSEM) Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program to assist in completing five inundation maps and two regional workshops for the Caballo and Santa Fe-Pojoaque Districts. Once complete, this project will provide a total of 24 Inundation Maps and 13 EAPs to many Districts across the state.

In some cases, only Inundation Maps are being provided, and in other cases Inundation Maps and EAPs were both completed for dams. Inundation Maps can be stand-alone documents but their primary purpose is to be part of an EAP. These documents provide dam owners, emergency managers, and emergency responders with an understanding of the watersheds of dams, paths that water will take in the case of a breached dam, and emergency response protocols. These documents also provide a foundation for Districts to make plans for future construction and rehabilitation work on these dams.

The Districts sponsor a total of 58 jurisdictional dams, as defined by the Dam Safety Bureau. Of these, 56 require inundation maps and EAPs (two dams are currently considered “low hazard”). Ten of the dams already have or are currently completing Inundation Maps or EAPs. At the time this project began, there were 46 dams that needed Inundation Maps and EAPs. Dams for the project were prioritized and selected based on population at risk, dam condition, dam hazard classification, regional considerations, and District input.

“The inundation maps and EAPs will allow us to more fully explain to our constituents the importance of these flood control dams, how they function and protect the community, as well as afford us the ability to describe potential risks in case of an extreme weather event,” said José Varela Lopez, the Vice-chairman of the Santa Fe-Pojoaque SWCD and Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner.

In addition to providing these important documents, NMDA is also serving as a resource to Districts who are in involved with the project as well as Districts who are interested in completing similar projects on their own by answering questions regarding the process of completing Inundation Maps and EAPs.

This project is expected to be completed in late 2017. For additional information regarding this project, please contact Ms. Lacy Levine at llevine@nmda.nmsu.edu or (575) 646-8024.

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