SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Santa Fe River is flowing again.
City officials say the river will likely flow for at least another week thanks to recent rains and planned upgrades to the Nichols Reservoir.
The reservoir has been drained so the existing intake tower that funnels water into the Canyon Road Water Treatment Plant can be replaced. The work is part of a $5.5 million project that also calls for building a new tower at the McClure Dam and replacing a pipeline that flows to the treatment plant.
Most of the water drained from Nichols was treated and delivered to utility customers. However, some was flushed into the Santa Fe River under a city ordinance that calls for providing up to 1,000-acre-feet a year for a “living river.”
Brian Drypolcher, the city’s river and watershed coordinator, said the timing of the recent rainfall and the infrastructure improvements has worked out well for the city’s river target flow program.
“We’re moving water down the river before plants go dormant for the winter. The flowing water looks great, sounds great and it comes at a time that’s good for the ecosystems along the river,” he said.
Workers began draining water from Nichols a few weeks ago in anticipation of the construction, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/16E4CLY). Work on the tower is expected to continue through next spring. After a summer break in 2014, construction will begin on the McClure Reservoir.
The rains and the draining of Nichols have left McClure nearly full. Two weeks ago, it was at less than one-third of capacity. Now, it’s over 80 percent.
City officials said any extra water that flows into McClure could be released into the river.
Officials said the infrastructure improvements will boost safety and provide better control over reservoir releases. Nichols Dam was built in the 1920s, and McClure dates back to the late 1940s. The pipeline to the water treatment plant was built in the 1970s.