SOCORRO, N.M., -- The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works), joined employees from the Albuquerque District and other government agencies to break ground on the first two phases of the San Acacia Levee project, Oct. 22, 2014.
“This is the best part of the job,” Darcy said. “I’m really proud of this project.”
“I can’t actually believe we’re doing this today,” said Rolf Schmidt-Peterson, Rio Grande Basin Manager for the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.
The Albuquerque District, the ISC, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), the Bureau of Reclamation, the city of Socorro, Congressional representatives, and other dignitaries gathered to mark the official start of construction on the first two phases of segment one, consisting of approximately six miles. This work will move approximately 5,000 people in Socorro out of the flood plain.
The $287 million project is divided into six segments along the west bank of the Rio Grande in central New Mexico. The finished project will be 43 miles of engineered levee starting from the San Acacia Diversion Dam south to Tiffany Junction. The levee will meet FEMA standards established after Hurricane Katrina and provide a 99 percent level of protection from a 100-year flood event. It is estimated that if this type of flood occurred today (without the new levee), damages would exceed $98 million.
The cost for the initial two phases is approximately $24 million, split between the federal government paying $20 million and the non-federal sponsors, MRGCD and the ISC, contributing $4 million. Actual construction is scheduled to begin in December and take about two years for the contractor, Kirkland Construction of Colorado, to complete.
One theme that all the speakers touched on is that of cooperation and partnerships. Without these, the project would not have happened. This project has been more than a half-century in the making. It was authorized in the Flood Control Act of 1948 and has taken more than 65 years of work and negotiation among local, state and federal governments to get to this point.
Secretary Darcy said that everyone was there because of perseverance and partnerships. It’s come about because of people who had perseverance and dedication to see it through over the years.
“We look forward to the future,” said Derrick Lente, chairman of the MRGCD board.