By Chantal H. Archuleta
After many months of planning, and putting out flyers and brochures from Arrey to Rincon, we are pleased to announce that the mil levy referendum passed with 79% in favor and 21% of voters being against passing the mil levy. Polling was held on Tuesday April 24, 2011 between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm. Voting locations were held at the Hatch Community Center, located at 837 Highway 187, Hatch New Mexico, and the Ken James Senior Center, and located at 13985 Highway 187, Arrey New Mexico.
One of the major responsibilities of The Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District is the maintenance of the dams within the District Boundaries. The Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District owns 19 dams, scattered throughout the Hatch Valley, from the Garfield Dam to the Broad Canyon Dam. The majority of these dams were built in the 1950’s and 1960’s, for the purpose of protecting agricultural land, but because development has occurred below most of these dams, there is now an increased risk of damage or loss of lives or property. The Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District completes annual inspections of these dams to ensure that adequate maintenance is completed on the structures, however, in the time since they were built, the great majority of these structures have been filling up with sediment (anything that washes into it when there is a rainstorm, such as dirt, brush, and debris) Estimates of sediment loads average 25,000 cubic yards. Projected costs to remove the average sediment loads are at least $69,750 per dam. Without the funding to address the buildup of sedimentation in the dams, there is an increased risk of dam failure, which can potentially mean that there could be flooding from here to El Paso, wiping out a lot of property, and endangering many lives. It is especially significant that the mil levy passed this year, because all of the funding for maintaining or rehabilitating dams around the United States has been cut from President Obama’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget. The Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District had very little money in the previous budget to clear brush out from the dams, and without the mil levy being passed; we would have been unable to continue to maintain brush control.
A Mil Levy Referendum is a tax, where you take one tenth of a percent of the taxable value of your property. Taxable value is equal to one third of the assessed value of your property.
Within the next month, the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District hopes to start the process of prioritizing the 19 dams in order of accumulated sediment load so we know which ones need cleaning out the most. We are hoping that the mil levy tax will start taking effect by 2013, which means that we will hopefully be able to start clearing out one dam per year, depending on how much revenue we get. We are so excited and relieved that we will be able to start making the Hatch Valley safer for farmers to grow crops, families to raise their children, and people to grow old together without the fear of a flood happening such as the one in 2006.
This mil levy will also make it possible to expose the children in the Hatch Valley to Conservation practices, after all, they are our future, and the planet is in their hands.
The Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District Office is open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, phone number 575-267-4221, We have many pictures of the dams that are in need of maintenance work done for the sediment removal, as well as maps of the district boundary lines. If you have any questions or concerns, please stop by the office, during operating hours, or give us a call any time. As we move forward, we will keep everyone updated on the progress of the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District and our work within the community.
If you have any questions about the Caballo Soil and Water Conservation District, or the Mil Levy Referendum, you may call our Board of Supervisors. Frank Garay, Chairman; Harvey Morrow, Vice-Chair; Pat Emery, Secretary-Treasurer; and Supervisors, Jerry Mayeux, Slim Whitlock, Hector Mendoza, and Casey McGuire.