Land Office meets the residents of Velarde | News

Officials from the New Mexico State Land Office met with residents of Velarde to discuss implementing a flood plan for the valley.

Will Barnes, deputy director of the surface resources division of the New Mexico State Land Bureau, said the land bureau is aware of the flooding in Velarde.

“We were aware of the problem, but it was very difficult to start,” Barnes said. “It’s a crushing problem. There are so many players with so many probable causes.

The proposed plan would be led by Ecotone, a company owned by Jan-Willem Jansens, who led a similar flood control project in the Dixon-Embudo area.

Barnes said the company was chosen for the proposal because it had a standing purchase order with the state land department and the company had experience working with multiple jurisdictions at the same time on projects. water projects.

Joe Romero, the upper Rio Grande watershed district president, said the flooding they envision in Velarde is all happening on state land.

Barnes said he was concerned the project would take a while to get started under normal circumstances, so he wanted to identify small fixes that might happen now. He also said he wants the first phase of flood investigations and interviews to be completed before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Barnes said he expected the approval process to go smoothly because Stephanie Garcia Richard, the state land commissioner, had family in the valley and was aware of the land issues. flood. After that he would receive the plan through procurement, which Barnes said could take up to two weeks and said he hoped that by the end of May interviews and surveys could have place with construction in July.

Romero said he suspected the problems stemmed from easements on the state lands of PNM, Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative and a few others that had not been properly addressed along access roads.

“It is state land and the state has never followed up on the corrective measures. Without blaming them for what happened. It was 40 years ago, but no one studied the problems that were going to be created afterwards,” Romero said.

Marian Bustamante, a resident of Velarde, said much of the flooding happens when the water reaches the neighborhood because the arroyos that existed have worn down over time.

“The arroyos used to run peacefully along our property lines, but it got flatter and just goes where it pleases,” Bustamante said. “We were thinking of a pond, but we could get in trouble for it. I really don’t want water. Please take it.

There is a 96 hour limit on how long you can store water for which you have no legal right in the state of New Mexico.

Romero said the cultural tradition of building multiple generations of homes on a property has led to potential issues with homes built in flood-prone areas on a property.

“I don’t blame the state here because nobody told us to build our houses where they are. The state owes us nothing,” Romero said. “Someone once said ‘this looks like a good place to build a house’ and it wasn’t such a good place to build a house.”

Barnes said projects like this were a relatively new development for the Land Office. In previous years, the funding cycle required projects to be completed within a fiscal year, so they were limited to considerations such as clearing brush or remediating abandoned mines, but funding methods changes during the previous state land commissioner allowed them to consider longer-term projects. .

Since the land office was able to pay for its operations with funds raised through lease agreements, Barnes said they were also able to match federal funds so they could more easily claim those funds and integrate them into projects alongside other parents in the state.

State Representative Roger Montoya said he wanted the Velarde flood control plan to work as a pilot project by showing that this project design model could work.

“You bring your community together. If you can name your community, you can start simple and add more complexity,” Montoya said. “A lot of the laws you see are top down but they never sink into the ground, and people get discouraged and angry because the government isn’t doing its job.”

Montoya said the area being primarily under the state land office rationale would hopefully facilitate that so that when flood control plans were initiated in areas with multiple rationales they could cite as example of how projects like this could work.

Gregory M. Roy