City, county leaders can’t agree on how to fix levee breach near Roswell

Politics - Government

ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – A breached levee has been flooding a New Mexico city for a week now. Monday night, there are still no signs of stopping the rushing water, and city and county leaders in southeastern New Mexico can’t agree on how or when to fix the problem.

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the flooding is still impacting his community, and the issue needs to be taken care of immediately. Meanwhile, the Chaves County Flood Commission Superintendent Richard Smith, who is in charge of the levee, said there is nothing he can do right now.

Five to seven inches of rain fell on southern New Mexico over the long Memorial Day weekend. Even though the heavy rainfall stopped a week ago, flooding is still a problem in south Roswell. “There is still water flowing through the city streets and private property,” Kintigh said.

Storms caused the Chaves County Flood Commission’s levee, a mile west of the city, to breach. “I want it fixed now,” Kintigh said. “Not later, now.” Kintigh said he is growing impatient.

Smith said he won’t fix it until the flow stops and the area is dried out, but Kintigh said that is too long.

The flooding has caused major road and property damage, at least one death, and loss of livestock. “On Thursday, the estimate was the Rocky Reservoir where this water is coming from will keep running another seven to 10 days from Thursday,” Kintigh said. “That is from the Army Corps of Engineers. We could still see flooding if nothing is done until this coming weekend.”

However, Kintigh said the flooding is primarily on private property right outside city limits, and the flood commission has the ultimate authority on how to address the issue. “I want to get started on it this week I am hoping,” Smith said. “I don’t know. If it rains again, it is going to happen all over again.”

Smith said the land is too saturated so he can’t get to the levee to fix it. “I can’t get in there,” Smith said. “I have a lot of heavy equipment. I could fix it in two days, but I don’t have the resources. It would bog down… Three or four bulldozers would be stuck.”

The mayor said they would need ATVs, helicopters, or people going on foot to put in sandbags and other barricades to slow the flow. “So be it,” Kintigh said. “If we have to push it, haul it or carry it.”

Smith said the state and feds have shared ideas on how to fix the problem now. Smith insists on waiting it out. “If you are accusing me of not doing anything, then you are wrong,” Smith said. “I have caught a lot of hell. They can fire me if they want to. I don’t care. I am 80 years old. I am doing the best I can.”

Smith said it was a 100-year storm that overpowered the levee. He said he plans to repair damage to the existing facilities, enlarge the infrastructure, and put a gate on the Rocky Dam, which Smith said would have to go through Congress. The county has filed a Disaster Declaration to help pay for the repairs.

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