Corrales Lake won’t be open for waterskiing or swimming later this year, but mosquito-feeding might be. The long-envisioned stormwater detention pond along Sagebrush Drive is now substantially complete. The enormous basin excavated in what has been the north half of the Village’s Salce Park is the terminus for extensive drainage improvements to cure disastrous flooding in sandhill neighborhoods below the abandoned Dam No. 1 on the escarpment between Rio Rancho and Corrales. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXVII No.16 November 9, 2019 “Long-Awaited Salce Basin Project Will Control Flooding.”)
Village Administrator Ron Curry said in a phone interview April 17 that “We are very happy with the work that was done up there,” and that the project is deemed “substantially complete” under the contract. The $2 million-plus project was engineered by Huitt-Zollars, of Rio Rancho, and constructed by Meridian Contracting.
Curry said the work went smoothly except for damage to a wall as the five-foot diameter culvert leading to the Salce pond was installed under Loma de Oro Road under tight conditions. The Village Administrator said he is confident the drainage system will be finished before monsoon season.
Much of the funding comes from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA).
Although the project’s purpose has never been stated as such, it may represent the final chapter in needed stormwater drainage controls for much of Corrales’ Northwest Sector. The terrain being protected was unincorporated territory (not annexed into Corrales) when four large dams were constructed along the escarpment by Rio Rancho developer Amrep Southwest which were supposed to control major run-off into Corrales.
Problems arose almost immediately, as Rio Rancho developers contended (unconvincingly) that drainage from their projects did not exceed “historic flows.”
As Corrales subdivisions crept higher into the sandhills on this side of the boundary, Amrep’s worries over potential liability intensified. Mysteriously, ownership of one or more of those dams was transferred to Sandoval County.
A continuation of steps taken to shift the escarpment drainage problems to taxpayers and their public institutions came when in 2007 a project was launched to pipe stormwater from Dam 1 all the way to the Montoyas Arroyo. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXV No. 24, February 10, 2007 “Stormwater Projects Under Way for Corrales Escarpment.”)
In part, that long drainage pipe was a response to the severe flooding that hit Corrales as Sagebrush Subdivision was going in. As part of his development agreement with the Village of Corrales, builder Ed Paschich promised to dedicate five acres of land along Sagebrush Drive to the Village in exchange for getting slightly higher residential density.
Two and a half acres were dedicated for a park, specifically soccer fields, on the south side of Sagebrush Drive and another 2.5 acres just across the road on the north side. But within weeks of installing the irrigation pump, irrigation system and seeding the field, a huge flood of water from Dam 1 raged down the escarpment and buried the would-be soccer field in deep sediment.
Since that day, Village officials have made several half-hearted attempts to rehabilitate the land dedicated for public recreation, although in recent years those five acres have served only as a materials dump for gravel and recycled asphalt. The current Salce Basin Flood Hazard Remediation project’s main feature is a five-foot diameter pipe that begins in an arroyo near the top of Loma del Oro Road north of the Sagebrush Subdivision and ends at spillway into the huge Salce Basin pond.
The Corrales Fire Department’s Tanya Lattin has been the Village’s primary interface with Meridian Contracting, which has built the infrastructure to address chronic erosion and flooding in that terrain.
At an October 30, 2019 pre-construction conference in the Village Office conference room, Battalion Commander Lattin dramatically recalled the flood damage that occurred from the July 26, 2013 “once in a thousand years” storm that saturated parts of Rio Rancho and Corrales. “A lot of these people were horribly, horribly impacted,” she told the Meridian representatives. The entire first level of one family’s home was filled with water and silt.
Lattin said she would try to keep homeowners fully informed throughout. “Five or six homes will have a very big impact” from the construction project, she pointed out. In addition to the crucial work along Loma del Oro, the northern end of Calle de Blas has been re-designed and rebuilt so that storm water will drain into a series of roadside catchments referred to as Noah’s Ponds.
The project has 14 specific construction parts, or tasks. Another of those is a future pond at the northeast corner of the Sagebrush and Griego Court intersection. Total construction price project according to the contractor’s bid is $2,176,825. After the July 2013 storm event and the enormous damage it caused, Village officials successfully got funding from FEMA and state government, which allowed the current project to get underway.
A homeowner hard hit by storm water run-off from that downpour told the Village Council at its June 24, 2014 meeting that her home had 10 feet of storm water and silt. The flooding “completely ruined our office, library, sewing, exercise room, guest bedroom and guest bathrooms” in the home’s basement area, one-third of the structure, according to Kate Bogart, whose home is just west of Calle Blanca between Loma del Oro and Camino Rayo del Sol.
The water also reached the main floor with damage to the kitchen, bath, hallway, dining room, living room and breakfast room. “We have estimated losses over $100,000 from this one flooding event.
“During the night of July 26, my husband barely made it out of our home alive, had to abandon our home, and had to evacuate with the Corrales Fire Department —they all got stuck on Calle Blanca del Norte,” Bogart wrote. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIII No.10 July 5, 2014 “Monsoon Storms Begin; Repairs Not Finished From 2013 Flooding.”)
In early 2007, David Stoliker, then-director of the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA) explained earlier attempts to address the problems within the Salce Basin watershed. He outlined two projects related to the old Dam 1 on the Rio Rancho-Corrales boundary that were supposed to control run-off to the terrain along the escarpment from Sagebrush to Angel Road. “On the Thompson fence line [boundary] there’s an old dam up there that the County received from Amrep, who told them it was a park and the County didn’t realize it was a dam,” Stoliker explained.
“In the area west of the Thompson fence line, there’s an outlet of the old Dam 1 that cuts across the escarpment to the Montoyas Arroyo,” he continued. But run-off coming in south of the dam has been running into Corrales unchecked. So, Stoliker said, “we’re going to grade that whole thing so all that water will not flow into Corrales.” Instead, it will flow down into the drainage feature installed at the old dam.
“That is one of the last places where storm water still flows into Corrales from Rio Rancho. What happened this past rain event [in 2006] is that we have an emergency spillway on the south side of the old dam of about five to ten acres that can still flow into Corrales.
“Well, in the big rains last summer, it cut [erosion] like you wouldn’t believe.
“When you have a steep slope like that, and the water gets up a strong velocity, it will cut right through.” Stoliker said his agency had retained two lots at the extreme west end of the Sagebrush Subdivision at the time the parcels were delineated in the mid-1980s. “On the cul de sac at the end of Sagebrush, we own two lots, and we wanted to keep those so that nobody would get hurt [if they built a home below the old Dam 1]. Well, the storm water from that 5-10 acres ended up cutting through our two lots.
“It cut right down into Salce Park. Instead of cutting through the original arroyo, it cut away from the arroyo… don’t ask me how it did it, but it was pretty heavy velocity.
“So right now, we’re issuing a task order for $37,000 of the $250,000” earmarked in the  bond election to grade the land south of the old dam to direct run-off into the drainage pipe that leads to the Montoyas Arroyo. The second, related, project was to the north of the old Dam 1. “There’s a steep escarpment in here, and the run-off came down near Tierra Encantada, so we’re going to take a look at that, too.
“In one place, the run-off broke out a couple of little ponds the Village had. We think with a little bit of new piping and putting in a little bigger drop inlets [into the existing drainage pipe that leads from the old Dam 1 to the Montoyas] we can solve that problem.”
Stoliker explained that when his agency installed the pipeline from Dam 1 to the Montoyas Arroyo in 1998, that project included inlets for flows coming from the escarpment itself. Those original inlets along the pipeline route did function, he explained, “but either the inlets were not big enough, or somehow we got a lot more sediment coming in than we expected. “I think what’s happening is that people are building up there and they’re covering their lots so it increases the run-off.
“Or it could have been simply that someone had done a lot of grading up there. Remember, this was a horrible storm event. This was what I consider to be a greater-than-one hundred year event. So they had enough run-off from these lots [in Rio Rancho], and maybe they did have ponds in there, but the ponds over-topped and it came down and broke out a couple of the structures that were in there.”
Most of those erosion problems identified more than a decade ago may finally have been addressed by the Salce Basin project now being completed.