Work continues to clean irrigation ditches

Posted at: 08/01/2013 6:54 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Much of New Mexico is still recovering from torrential rains, especially from the big storms last Friday night. The storms caused heavy damage to the system of irrigation ditches that bring water to farmers. The tiny Soccoro County village of Veguita was hit particularly hard.

Hundreds of tons of dirt washed down arroyos on the east bank of the Rio Grande, burying ditches and roads and fields and yards. The floodwaters swept across the yard of New Mexico painter Brian O’Connor, threatening his family’s house.

“The house didn’t get flooded out,” O’Connor said while standing near an old pickup buried up to its axles in mud. “The water didn’t make it to the floor level but it did get flooded underneath the house and undermined some of the foundation.” How deep was it? It was about four feet deep under the house.

Upstream in Bosque Farms it was a similar story: More dirt. A torrential downpour washed out the ditch bank behind Roxanne Tyler’s home and carried hundreds of pounds of dirt down into her yard.

“We basically get the dirt,” Tyler said. “They pile it up and pile it up and pile it up every year and eventually it’s got to go somewhere.”

Engineers for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which owns and maintains the ditches, say it’s not their fault and not their liability. They point out that these are irrigation ditches, after all – not flood control arroyos.