Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mesilla Valley Flood (Un)Control:  The View from Vado, Hatch and La Union
Mary Carter,  La Politica New Mexico contributor

Sentenario Street, La Union
From 1996 to 2016 Dona Ana County had 54 floods, 16 in 2006 alone.  Global warming trends suggest more are on the way.  Recent floods created messes throughout the county, due to long-existing failures at all levels of government to provide either a drainage infrastructure for low-income communities lying in vulnerable areas, or to assist residents when floods cause severe damage.  In Hatch alone, for the umpteenth time, families, in this case 30 of them, were evacuated from their homes during the flooding.

Last week at a meeting in Vado (heavily affected by recent flooding) attended by about 20 persons, residents and community leaders expressed pent-up frustration about the lack of planning.  Listening to these were interim county manager Chuck McMahon, flood engineer John Gwynne, and other officials.  Co-hosting meeting was community leader America Terrazas, from Vado.

          "This conversation...should have happened a month ago, the planning for...evacuation.  Last week in Mesquite the elderly weren't being helped to carry sandbags to their doors." Arturo Uribe, community leader from Mesquite.

          "This flood is a gateway to community buy-in and prioritizing needs because what they did here with this grader after spending a million not going to protect anything!  It's freaking dirt, its sand.!"  Pablo Martinez, resident of Hatch.
Pablo Martinez
 John Gwynne, an engineer for the Flood Commission, urged residents to buy sandbags and flood insurance.  As everyone there knew, this is a hopeless impossibility at the income levels of most residents.  He went on to say that officials had six grants from the Colonias Infrastructure Fund, but two of these were not handled is a timely way and about $100,000 in planning grants had to be returned.  Arturo Uribe, rumored to be considering a run for County Commission next year, said, "when you come and we hear that there isn't money and then you tell us that money goes back because you can't move it fast enough, then that is an issue."  Former county commissioner Oscar Butler urged residents to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

How much flood control money has been spent in DAC in the past ten years?  Is it enough?  What do other communities do to prevent damage from floods?  Has there been enough consultation with residents in affected areas?

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