New Mexico

Progress shaping up at Bonito Lake as restoration project continues

LINCOLN COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) - We are finally seeing progress as crews work to restore Bonito Lake, devastated by a wildfire more than six years ago.

The popular tourist attraction and destination hub for fishing in southeast New Mexico has become an excavation site as crews work to restore it.

"We still get a ton of tourists asking when the lake's going to be open and it is hard to tell them it's going to be another year, year and a half, two years,” said project manager Joel Ferguson.

A long road still ahead still, but progress is shaping up.

Heavy rain polluted the lake with debris in the wake of the Little Bear Fire in 2012. The lake was subsequently closed.

“The rainfall that happened in June/July of 2012 just brought in everything that the fire had burned off, so most of that is what we’re going to be seeing when we’re taking the debris out of the lake,” said Ferguson.

Since August, crews have been hauling out dirt and ash.

Ferguson says they are removing more than 1,000 cubic yards of the debris a day, with a little more than half a million cubic yards of debris by the end of the project.

The biggest challenge has been the weather since most of the material needs to be dry before it can be hauled.

“So whenever it rains, or if there’s like a heavy rainfall, snowfall, if it freezes, any of those things really restrict what material we can take out,“  says Ferguson. 

Fortunately, Ferguson says the setbacks have been minimal so far, the weather only putting them about two to four weeks behind.

"My hope is that, you know, it's going to be something that people will continue to come and fish and have a good time, enjoy Ruidoso, enjoy the county, really appreciate this natural beautiful wilderness that we have out here," he says. 

It will cost about $17 million to restore the lake.

They hope to have it done by early 2020.


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