ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lawmakers toured areas damaged and destroyed by the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire Friday, including the Gallinas Watershed which many people in the area rely on. Members of the Legislative Finance Committee Subcommittee on Emergency Response toured the area to figure out what needs to be done to protect the Gallinas Watershed before the monsoons hit.
“The flood of 2013 should remind us of how delicate this watershed is. And that’s only going to grow from what’s going to happen once we get the first monsoon,” says Sen. Ben Ray Lujan, (D) New Mexico.
A major focus of the discussion Friday was the immediate need to protect infrastructure from debris that could be washed through the watershed area. However, tackling that problem is still a challenge now as fires continue to burn.
“It’s just ash and so you can’t go up there and start cutting these really steep areas until the monsoon. So that’s going to come down, that’s going to create problems worse than the 2013 flood. But we hope it doesn’t. But it could,” Lujan says.
An environmental consultant says that based on the damage, a normal annual monsoonal event in the area could actually be more like a 100-year flood event. She says the cost to rehabilitate the area would be in the ballpark of $100 million.
Officials say their goal is to get that money to the local level as soon as possible. “If we can get you money, and get it in your coffers in 15 days, right – that’s my goal. That’s my whole goal because this is the only water source for that community,” says Sen. George Muñoz (D- Gallup).
Once the critical monsoon period has passed, lawmakers say they can then start focusing on restoration.
Local officials in Las Vegas, New Mexico, say they’re working closely with FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers to help them with infrastructure protection in the coming weeks.