LAS VEGAS, N.M. (KRQE) – Residents along Gallinas Creek in San Miguel County near the Hermits Peak Calf Canyon burn scar are trying to prevent floodwaters from reaching their homes and they’re saying the city of Las Vegas isn’t doing what it needs to do to help them.
Residents who live along the creek are no strangers to flooding—it happened to them back in 2013; but Monday, panicked residents say the river is rapidly rising and the city of Las Vegas isn’t opening floodgates that would drain the excess run-off to Storrie Lake.
“We called the city, and the city told us that they were willing to take the casualties because they were not going to open the floodwater gates. These are floodwater gates, mind you, that are supposed to be open for a flood,” says Judy Noble, whose home is at risk.
Noble says the water is six feet from their door and rising fast. She and her family are working to put out sandbags—and even cut down timber—to build their own dams and protect their home. She says the city told them they can’t divert the floodwaters because it would contaminate Storrie Lake—the area’s final resource for water for 14,000 people.
The mayor of Las Vegas says they’re balancing saving the city’s water, and minor flooding of properties. However, Noble says the last time their home flooded, it was under four feet of water.
Noble says the reason their area flooded in 2013 was due to the floodgates being welded shut and they’re frustrated that it’s nearly a decade later and they’re facing the same situation. However, the mayor says water levels are not currently at the 2013 levels.
The chairman of the county commission, Harold Garcia, says the water is black from the fire-burned area. “Filtering the water once it’s in the lake after it’s black, it would be somewhat difficult. It could compromise the drinking water for the city of Las Vegas,” Garcia says.
A spokesperson for the Storrie Project Water User Association, which owns the diversion dam, says it was never established for flood control. They say the city was put in charge of it via an emergency order during the recent fires and that it’s up to them to decide what to do.
The mayor says they are monitoring it constantly and can determine at a moment’s notice whether they’ll open the gates. Still, Noble says it’s frustrating. “If the city knew what they were doing and they had a plan, why did they not prepare us—prepare the people that live along this stretch that goes all the way from here to town—so that we could protect ourselves?
“It’s disheartening that the city didn’t warn its constituents who support them to do their job to the best of their ability to save us and to help us and to keep us protected; that they didn’t even have the decency to notify people. Because people were under the understanding that those gates would be open,” Noble says.
The mayor says contaminating the lake also jeopardizes the habitats in the lake and recreational use of the lake, which would hurt the local economy later on.