ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After a deadly couple of weeks in the diversion channels, Albuquerque City Council President Cynthia Borrego is looking for ways to improve safety. She’s introducing a resolution to encourage the Albuquerque Ditch and Water Safety Task Force to conduct a study to find safety improvements to the water system.
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“We’ve had a lot of issues with people being in the arroyos and unfortunately it has become a public safety issue because there has been a couple of deaths as a result of the water that’s carried by those arroyos,” said Council President Borrego. The study would result in recommendations going to city council which could include suggestions like more fencing or an alarm warning system.
“Nothing is off the table,” said Council Preside Borrego. Jerry Lovato is the Executive Engineer of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Flood Control Authority, or AMAFCA, which oversees 350 square miles of channels. He said an alarm system comes with challenges.
“In Albuquerque, you could hear a siren go off underneath a bridge which could mean you might have water coming down the channel. But as you can look at the tram cams showing the storm over Albuquerque you could have a little storm event over one small part of Albuquerque but it won’t trigger the alarm system by itself,” he said. “So, what I’m trying to get at is… if there was an alarm system set up, it couldn’t be automated because the potential for false alarms is so high, nobody would pay attention to it. So it would have to be a manually operated human-controlled process.”
Another recommendation could be more outreach and education to people experiencing homelessness who are setting up encampments in the arroyos. Lovato said it is a growing problem.
“What’s happened in the recent past in the last 5 to 6 years we have a lot more urban campers say in our facilities. These facilities are not meant for camping. You know, you just can’t live here,” said Lovato.
Signage, fencing, and outreach are already in place. The city’s Family and Community Services Department has a team of two that goes to encampments around the city, including in arroyos, and helps move people out and connect them to services. The team is soon expanding to five.
For Lovato, education is key. “It’s really all about education, keeping the people informed about what’s dangerous and what’s not dangerous,” he said. “People don’t understand the power of water until they’re in it and it’s too late.”
Council President Borrego said the study would cost around $25,000 to $50,000 and would ideally be completed in six months. She would like to see about $4 million go to suggested safety improvements.