Supervisors Melissa Gorham and Joe Delk gave presentations to the students of Fairacres Elementary School as part of their Ag Day Activities on April 15, 2016. The presentations provided information about the benefits to wildlife from the livestock drinkers installed by ranchers. These additional sources of water increase the sustainability of both livestock and wildlife, especially in arid regions such as ours. The display board pictured above illustrates the diverse species of wildlife drinking from the tanks and troughs.
District Manager Cecilia Owen participated in the Tularosa Intermediate School Career Day on May 23, 2016, by presenting information about the various professions and degrees related to soil and water conservation. She also gave a hands-on demonstration to the students on various methods of conservation used in communities, agriculture, and forested areas.
Cothern Dam Flood Control Monitoring and Early Warning System
Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCD's) in NM have several statutory mandates related to their functions, such as controlling and preventing soil erosion or preventing floodwater and sediment damage in an effort to protect the tax base as well as to provide for the safety of the local constituents. The Dona Ana SWCD has very little funding for general operations leaving inadequate financial resources for conservation projects; therefore, obtaining additional revenue such as through grants is the only way we can meet our statutory mandates. Since Dona Ana SWCD is the easement holder for several dams within our district boundaries including Cothern Dam, we sought and were awarded a grant from the NM Soil & Water Conservation Commission (NM SWCC) for FY 2016 to purchase and install a rain gauge and sensors at the dam.
Cothern Dam, located west of Las Cruces, was constructed in 1974 to protect the local agricultural infrastructure from a 50-year frequency storm event. The NM Office of the State Engineer, Dam Safety Bureau, has rated it a Class B dam indicating Significant Hazard Potential. Dams receive this rating when dam failure or incorrect operation of the dam will not result in probable loss of human life, but may cause economic loss, environmental damage, disruption of lifeline facilities, or could impact other concerns.
The Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) and the Dona Ana County Flood Commission (DACFC) co-sponsor Cothern Dam as well and reported that it nearly over-topped in 2014, which could have caused catastrophic flooding of residences and farmland below the dam. Therefore, we all partnered together in an effort to make improvements to the dam and enhance monitoring capabilities. EBID installed the rain gauge and sensors in April 2016, with the objective to continuously monitor watershed runoff and reservoir levels to improve our understanding of the Cothern Dam watershed hydrologic parameters. This will also provide access to a real time dam hazard (water level) evaluation system which was integrated into EBID's existing radio telemetry system and the data will be published on DACFC's OneRain website. The project will be deemed successful if enough data can be gathered to determine the correlation between individual rain events and the quantity of watershed runoff that accumulates in the reservoir. These data are a foundation for a robust early warning and emergency notification system to be implemented, helping to ensure public safety, so that local emergency managers, residents, and farmers/landowners below the dam are warned in a timely manner in the event of a flooding situation or potential dam failure.
Upper Left Corner: Photo of Cothern Dam showing rain gauge and sensors in relation to the pooling area behind the dam.
Upper Right Corner: Photo of rain gauge and sensors looking up from pooling area.
Lower Left Corner: Photo illustrating camouflaged design elements that blend in with the surrounding environment.
Lower Right Corner: Photo from atop the dam looking east to the residences and farmland downstream of the dam.
UPDATE: Dona Ana SWCD has been awarded another grant from the NM SWCC for the Butler Dam Flood Control Monitoring and Early Warning System to be completed in FY 2017. As part of this grant, a rain gauge and sensors will again be purchased then installed by EBID for the same functions and purposes listed above.