Bonito Lake suffers flooding; delays expected in ongoing project

New Mexico

RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) – The Little Bear Fire in 2012 nearly destroyed Bonito Lake near Ruidoso. Crews drained the lake to clean out all of the ash and debris from the fire. It was expected to be completed last year but money and new flooding will delay the completion yet again.

“It’s all related to Little Bear you know and just get heavy rain in the upper ends of some of those drainage’s and they just blow out,” said Jodie Canfield, the Smokey Bear District Ranger.

The Bonito Lake and Rio Bonito sit inside of the Bonito Canyon. In 2012 The Little Bear Fire scorched this area leaving behind fallen trees and tons of ash in the burn scare. Rain and the Rio Bonito sent ash into the lake killing fish and needing a lot of rehabs. When the work was almost complete, new flash floods have brought more ash and debris into the lake.

“So instead of removing existing debris, Smith Co’s crew have to re-engage and remove and remove the debris,” said Bob Johnson, the manager of the Alamogordo Engineer Department.

Johnson said the original contract was to remove 247,000 cubic yards of ash and sediment but were running out of money for the project. FEMA approved funding for an additional 300,000 cubic yards earlier this year now pushing the completion date until the summer of 2021.

“It was scheduled to be completed about a year ago, the summer of 2019. We had a number of time extensions during that time frame due to weather, probably 90 to 120 days,” said Johnson.

The Lincoln National Forest says they have prepared extra resources for any more flash floods in the area and are not planning to close any of their campgrounds.

“No, I don’t think we will have to shut them down we’re just going to have to be fluid and flexible to you know, respond to debris that might get on the road and that kind of stuff and so far we have been able to do that,” said Canfield.

The Lincoln National Forest says the grant money will help them plant new trees and address the erosion in the little bear burn scar. They say volunteers are helping them make a lot of progress.

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