A planning effort is now officially underway for potential uses of the Corrales Interior Drain, also known as “the scummy ditch” or “the scuzzy ditch” east of Corrales Road. Some villagers consider it a treasured natural area with aquatic life, wetlands vegetation and sometimes even muskrats, while to other Corraleños, it is a disgusting, smelly near-sewer that breeds mosquitos.
The long ditch and ditchbank roads run from north of Dixon Road to the Riverside Drain south of East Meadowlark Lane. The land is owned and managed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District which excavated it in the 1930s to lower the water table and drain land for agriculture.
In bygone days, much of the central Corrales Valley east of Corrales Road was swamp. The Interior Drain was meant to improve the land so it could be farmed. As such, the ditch was designed to receive excess irrigation water which was to flow back to the Rio Grande when it reached the Riverside Drain which empties into the river at Alameda Bridge.
But over the decades, the Interior Drain’s hydraulics have deteriorated, leaving a mostly disconnected, stagnant series of puddles. Less and less acreage is cultivated in that area, while more and more homes —and septic leachfields— have gone in, so that the ditch is now more of a conduit for household wastewater rather than irrigation return flow to the river.
In recent months, a handful of eastside residents have begun organizing to explore possibilities that might transform the area. Led by Corrales native Doug Findley, son of the late Jim Findley and Tommie Findley, the group asked Mayor Jo Anne Roake to establish a Village government task force to make recommendations. Appointed to the task force are: Findley, Ed Boles, John Perea, Sayre Gerhart, Jeff Radford and Rick Thaler.
The group composed the following statement: “Our mission is to identify and help to implement ways in which the Interior drain and right-of-way may be improved for safe, enjoyable and essential public use while maintaining tranquility for adjacent residents.” At least initially, the group has suggested the project be referred to as “The Corrales Eco Corridor.” Since the Village of Corrales has no jurisdiction over the land involved, the task force acknowledges that its eventual recommendations would need concurrence from the MRGCD to be implemented. The district’s chief concern is expected to be retaining full use of the ditch and ditchbanks to perform routine maintenance.
The task force has asked the Village administration to send a letter to the MRGCD regarding its formation and objectives, which include improving the area for residents who live along the drain, for residents who use it for access to their homes and to make it safer and friendlier for pedestrians, bicyclists and horseback riders.