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Posted 3/24/2014

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By Elizabeth Lockyear
Albuquerque District Public Affairs

SAN ACACIA, N.M., -- New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, saying that water is key for economic development, announced the approval of $1 million in state Capital Outlay funds to help fund the first two phases of the Corps’ Rio Grande Floodway, San Acacia to Bosque del Apache, N.M., project, March 19, 2014.

The Corps of Engineers is partnering with the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to complete the project. The City of Socorro has also contributed about $50,000, said MRGCD Chief Engineer Subhas Shah.

The total project cost is split between the federal agencies (85 percent) and the non-federal sponsors (15 percent). The total federal share of the project so far has been around $15 million.

The construction contract for Phase 1 and Phase 2 is scheduled to be awarded in September with actual construction expected to start by December.

Phases I and II are projected to provide between 58-72 full time jobs during the construction.

Phase I, approximately 3.2 miles, starts at the Socorro Diversion Channel and continues to Otero Road in Socorro. Phase II covers an additional 2 miles. The complete project will construct 43 miles of levee to replace the existing “spoil bank” currently located along the west bank of the Rio Grande between San Acacia and the south end of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.

The current spoil bank is basically piles of dirt between the low-flow channel and the river. They are not engineered to hold back water in a flood event, Corps Project Manager Jerry Nieto said. The spoil banks are not certified and don’t meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s criteria for a flood protection structure.

The new engineered levee design is for the levee to withstand the mean hundred-year flood plus 4 feet, or approximately 29,900 cubic feet per second flow rate at San Acacia Diversion dam.

Local authorities hope that with the new levee from the Socorro Diversion south past Brown Arroyo, FEMA will re-designate the flood zones in the Socorro area, potentially saving local residents and businesses hundreds of dollars each in flood insurance.