“Normally, the elevation of the water is at 5,343 feet; and today we’re probably at 5,373 feet,” said Trevor Wallin, operations project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Cochiti Lake, “The highest been, yeah, in almost 40 years.” The water level at Cochiti Lake has already risen around 30 feet in elevation, and officials say it’s not done yet. “About a foot a day, unless we have some rain events or anything that adds to it. So we’re going to go up well above what we saw in June,” Wallin said, “I think we’re probably going to come up another 15 feet, at least. 15 to 20 feet.”
Bathrooms, streetlights, and the parking lot are all underwater. Wallin said the last time it flooded, it took weeks and tens of thousands of dollars to clean up. Folks at Cochiti Lake Wednesday shared their concerns about the rising water: “With it this high you don’t know what’s out there so are you going to hit anything like buildings when you’re boating around?” said Janet Annelli, who was visiting the lake to kayak, “I don’t know what risk there is having two streetlights flooded in the water.”
Wallin said, not to worry: electrical systems that are now underwater had been disconnected ahead of time, bathrooms were cleaned out ahead of the flood, and other structures that are now underwater have been marked with buoys.
Bet, how did they know the water would rise? Because, officials say, this flood was planned. “We’re going to be doing some needed maintenance at Abiquiu Lake this fall and winter, and that requires us to drop the lake levels up there and so we’re moving all that flood storage water down here to Cochiti where it’s going to stay until November at the end of irrigation season when we can release it to Elephant Butte,” Wallin said.
Still, folks aren’t letting the rising waters get them down: “Having the, you know, the restrooms covered is inconvenient for everyone but other than that, it’s fine,” Annelli said.
Wallin said that because of the late release, people can expect to see more water in the Rio Grande at the end of November and into December than they’re used to. He said they have to wait to release the water until after irrigation season because it technically belongs to Texas.