Vista Del Norte neighborhood frustrated over storm drain causing damage

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – All of the recent rain has exposed a problem in one Albuquerque neighborhood. Every time there’s a big storm, they’re left cleaning up a mess and making repairs that they say no one wants to take responsibility for. Rain is a good thing here in the desert, but for this neighborhood, it causes nothing but problems.

“Every time we get a major rain, this storm drain system up here causes erosion and damage to our property,” said Jim Souter, president of the Vista Del Norte Alliance. “There’s concrete buffering that should be put in to build up the drains to the point it can handle, I believe, it’s the hundred-year guideline.”

The Rancho Mirage Condos just northeast of Osuna and Vista Del Norte are at the bottom of a 10-acre hill. With one storm drain to funnel all that water, it’s easy to get clogged up, causing erosion at the top of the hillside.

“All the water comes down and it’s asked to be directed 90 degrees to the left and down to the lowest cornering here and again, 90 degrees to the right,” said Souter. “If you have maintenance issues like the trash and stuff clogging it up, you get a big lake over here and when that erosion comes, it absolutely blows out the embankments.”

For more than a decade, the neighborhood has used their own money to build retaining walls for a problem, they say, is not their fault. The most recent damage is due to Thursday’s rain, but when it comes down to who’s responsible for fixing it, that answer is still up in the air.

According to the city’s flood control, AMAFCA, while they own and operate the concrete channel east of the neighborhood, the City of Albuquerque and AMAFCA do not have maintenance responsibility where the damage is along the fence line. That’s between the private properties, one of which is a federally-owned office for the U.S. Forest Service. AMAFCA issued the following statement to clarify the properties involved:

“The property that was damaged (where the wall fell down), is the Vista Del Norte subdivision.  The property directly east (where the sand bags where placed next to the fence) is the Sego-Cox subdivision.  The U.S. Forest Service has a building in the Sego-Cox subdivision.  Both properties need to follow the approved grading and drainage plan approved by the City of Albuquerque.  The approval by the City of the grading and drainage plan allowed both properties to be developed.  It’s possible that the modifications to the fence for security purposes created an artificial dam that allowed water to back up and find another path off the property.”

“Low and behold, the system failed again and blew out all the work,” said Souter. “I don’t believe you could’ve put a stick of dynamite in there and caused any more damage than what you saw out there.”

Vista Del Norte Alliance president Jim Souter says the new damage will cost around $75,000 to fix. He says it’s an ongoing problem for neighbors and someone needs to take responsibility.

“The city engineers have been out here and their basic statement was that the drain you saw pictured was adequate to handle the water on that,” said Souter. “I don’t think it’s worth it until the source of the problem is rectified. I don’t think there’s adequate drains up here and I don’t think there’s adequate concrete buffering to handle the water.”

In the meantime, they’d also like to see the city put in a primary storm drain further east. That way, the current storm drain would cause a secondary backup drain to curb these problems in the future. KRQE News 13 also reached out to the U.S. Forest Service to see if they will assist with repairs but did not hear back.

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