Updated: Winter 2014
Reader Recap: While construction work for the Los Alamos Canyon Dam project began in March 2011 project work was suspended due to the Las Conchas fire and post-fire flooding in September 2011. Staff is currently working to repair the washed out road leading to the Dam, draining and dredging the reservoir before construction can resume on the Dam. DPU is bringing the Dam into compliance with more stringent safety standards which were activated when governance changed from federal to state agencies following the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000.
Did You Know? The Los Alamos County Council has expressed interest in restoring recreational access and amenities at the LA Reservoir once DPU's dam rehabilitation work is completed. DPU's work is ratepayer funded from water rates (along with grants and Cerro Grande monies), and is closely linked to obtaining low cost water from this surface collector system, for our community's needs, such as parks irrigation. Look to Los Alamos County's GRT-based funding for continued development of this asset for recreational purposes.
The watershed area that feeds into Los Alamos Canyon was severley burned by the June 26, 2011 Las Conchas fire. As a result, post-fire rains have flooded the Los Alamos Canyon Dam construction site -- silting up the lake bed, plugging outlet works, washing out the access road, and damaging an emergency by-pass channel that was constructed after the fire for the purpose of diverting water from the dam area.
As of April 13, 2012, temporary repairs have been completed to the access road. DPU's contract-engineer completed specifications for permanent road repairs, dredging and draining of the reservoir. Project will be put out to bid on April 15. DPU is pushing to have this portion of the project completed before the monsoon season. Another bid will go out for the completion of the dam reconstruction. Estimated completion for the Dam work is December 2012.
As of July 18, 2012, monsoon rains washed out portions of the Los Alamos Canyon access road, but DPU's contractor, Meridien, Inc., has executed repairs to make the road passable once again, and enable the dam rehabilition work to continue.
ROUGH ROAD. The access road leading up to the reservoir after recent rains shows flood damage. DPU's acces road contractor, Meridien, Inc. has made the road passable as of July 18, 2012.
FILLED TO THE BRIM. Los Alamos Reservoir following recent rains.
WINTER 2011. This photo taken February 2011 shows the reservoir's control gate.
CONTROL GATE SUMMER 2012. Recent rains (and flooding due to the Las Conchas Fire of 2011) fill the reservoir to near capacity. DPU's contractor cpontinues to work to mitigate the danger from future rain events.
Enabling recreation at the Los Alamos Canyon Reservoir is among the County Council's goals for the community, but the dam must be reconstructed to meet revised state standards first. The Dept. of Public Utilities (DPU) is the lead department for the reconstruction effort while the county's Parks and Recreation Division will manage any future recreational projects associated with the area.
In 2009 the State Engineer Office, Dam Safety Bureau approved the pre-design report for the Los Alamos Canyon dam. This report consisted of storm event hydrology modeling, downstream flood analyses (with both dam breach and overtopping), spillway design capacity determination and stability analyses of the existing dam. The report underwent multiple iterations of review by the State, so securing this approval was a major milestone.
The formal Design Report and construction drawings were submitted to the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer (NMOSE) in the Winter of 2010. NMOSE review is complete and a permit was issued in August 2010.
Because the dam is located on U.S. Forest Service property, an Environmental Assessment (EA) was completed and a Decision Notice and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was issued.
The initial project was funded through an award from the Water Trust Board and supplemental funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the Cerro Grande Fire damage to the area in 2000. Los Alamos County Council has also designated funding for the dam restoration project.
Project Schedule and Budget
Total project budget before the Las Conchas fire was estimated to be $3.5 million. Due to the fire and post-fire flooding the project is delayed while road work, dredging and draining the reservoir take place. The new estimated completion date for the Los Alamos Canyon Dam work is December 2012. The DPU has applied for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for flood damages.
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