Home News Local News Orchard Park Road residents ask for help after flooding

Orchard Park Road residents ask for help after flooding

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Three people who live near West Orchard Park Road in Chaves County asked Thursday for county officials to help fix roads and culverts damaged by recent floods and to assist in the prevention of future flooding.

Officials with the Chaves County Board of Commissioners and the Chaves County Flood Commission responded during the commissioners’ meeting that they would look into what can be done, but offered no guarantees and said nothing could be decided at the moment.

Charles Harper, Michael Gomez and Natalie Sweeney, who live in the area south of the Roswell Air Center and to the west of U.S. 285, described “the roaring rapids” that arrived the night of May 30 due to a “100 year” rainstorm. They said they watched large structures pass by and that they continue to deal with some of the damage.

“This is not meant to be a gripe session,” said Harper, who lives on Lariat Road. “Instead we are looking at this as an opportunity to open the door to find solutions to our problems on Orchard Park Road.”

He thanked several people — including Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr., County Road Operations Director Joe West and Roswell-Chaves County Emergency Services Manager Karen Sanders — for the assistance already provided. But he also requested more action.

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He asked for repairs to Concho, Lariat, Ambush, Two Sticks and Lancet roads in the area using some of the $750,000 emergency disaster funds that have been provided to the county by the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

He also wants the county to work with the New Mexico Department of Transportation to keep the culverts clean along U.S. 285 to reduce flooding.

“Also we would like for the flood plan to be reviewed,” Harper said. “We would like for the Board of Commissioners to authorize our Flood Control commissioner to collaborate with other agencies to come up with a solution to the flood problem and to help seek out the financing to do the necessary projects.”

Michael Gomez, a resident of Ambush Road since 1984, said “in the past 30 plus years, I have never seen so much water come down Orchard Park Road.”

He said that he and brother Tommy Gomez traced the recent flood water back to Juan Lake, which is on private property beyond Brown Road.

He previously has said that he does not think the flooding in their area came from the breached levee under county control located 1.25 miles west of Roswell, which has been identified as the cause of flood waters in south Roswell near the Air Center.

Gomez said he suspects that a dam or levee on private property had been built and was holding a significant amount of water before the May 28 to May 30 storms began. That event was considered a 100-year storm because more than 5 inches of rain fell in some areas of the county within a 24-hour period. Gomez said if a private dam or levee had been built, it probably broke during the storm.

He said he would like to see a long-term plan to prevent flooding in the area, as well as a short-term plan to create more drainage for Orchard Park Road.

He explained that private property owners need to comply with the requirement that they build culverts to aid in water drainage, adding that he is only aware of three property owners who have done so.

Gomez also pointed out that he and other area residents are working to bring some roads up to county standards so that they can become county roads, but that flooding and water damage require frequent repairs and deter their efforts.

Natalie Sweeney of Lariat Road said she continues to deal with a collapsed well and must bring in water for personal use and for her livestock. Septic systems also were contaminated.

“The damage is going to take months and months to clean up,” she said. “We appreciate everything that has been done, but there is definitely more that should be looked at and done. It isn’t comfortable to sit in your home and it sounds like roaring rapids outside your walls. It is a little unsettling.”

Ezzell, West and Flood Commissioner Tim Jennings all said that they would consider the requests.

“We can’t take any action today because it is not on our agenda,” Ezzell said. “But we have heard you and we will do what we can.”

West said that he looked at the roads mentioned by Harper on Wednesday.

“To be honest with you, they are in much better shape than some of our other county roads, except Lariat,” West said, “Lariat is an issue.”

He also said that the amount of water on West Orchard Park Road was more than he had ever seen during his time with the county and that it would have covered a bridge. He gave his opinion that no amount of culverts along U.S. 285 would have helped.

Still, he said, he was prepared to do what the county wanted.

“It won’t take much for the county to address the issues on those roads, if that is what the county deems,” he said.

Jennings also promised to consider fixes to the problems.

“We will look at this and see what we can find between Juan Lake and Zubi Draw, and we’ll see what we can find and see if we can come up with some solutions to this,” he said.

He added that he and Flood Control employees have already taken some actions to try to reduce flooding chances.

They have repaired the two separate breaching incidents of the county levee; are continuing to press the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put a gate on the Rocky Dam to hold more water, a request that has been declined by the group during the past decade; and have made plans to widen the levee ditch by 10 feet to 12 feet, requesting authorization to buy a scraper for that purpose.

Jennings added that people need to be better informed about the potential for flood waters.

“There needs to be some guidance on property sales in our county, making some statements on flooding and things,” he said.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.