U.S. Water News Online
LAS VEGAS, N.M. -- Water has become like gold in this
northern New Mexico community, and Mayor Henry O. Sanchez says city
officials are trying to figure out how to better use the supply.
Las Vegas needs at least $32 million to address water problems,
city officials told Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., after taking him on
the tour of the city watershed off the Gallinas River.
Louie E. Casaus, district forester for the state Forestry
Division, said proper thinning in the watershed would increase water
running to the city and other users and would help cut down on the
buildup of forest debris that could lead to a catastrophic wildfire.
Drought conditions have cut the flow of the Gallinas River. That,
combined with a lack of water storage, prompted city officials to ban
all outdoor watering, shut off commercial pools and spas and run the
city's pool on abbreviated hours. Restaurants are saving water by
serving food on paper plates.
The city's water compact committee expects to have a list of water
projects soon. The projects likely will include replacing some water
pipes, a new design for Las Vegas' dam system and buying more water
storage in nearby Storrie Lake.
State and federal officials who toured the watershed emphasized
the need to help private landowners thin in the watershed. Some 70
percent of the land in the watershed is in private hands.
The U.S. Forest Service is preparing to release an environmental
impact statement for a thinning project on 8,500 acres of agency
property within the watershed. The document is due in August for
Casaus said he hopes local timber firms and private contractors
can be brought in for thinning projects. Thinned trees could be
turned into products that could be sold to help the local economy.
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