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Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham announced they have sent two joint, bipartisan letters to President Obama, urging him to respond quickly to separate requests for disaster assistance for the state of New Mexico and Santa Clara Pueblo.
The state and the Pueblo are asking the federal government for help with hazard mitigation and to repair public infrastructure damaged between Sept. 9 and Sept. 22. During that time, historic, record-breaking rain across New Mexico – which followed severe storms and floods in July – caused catastrophic flooding and damage in about two-thirds of the state. Two people were killed and numerous others evacuated during the rainstorms, and the Red Cross opened shelters in several counties.
Los Alamos County was one of the counties appealing for relief from the government. The county estimated it had more than $5 million in damage.
Across the state, flooding and landslides washed out roads and bridges, and several communities in Catron, Eddy and Sierra counties were completely isolated. Water control facilities in numerous counties were damaged, including many historic acequias, as well as drinking water systems in McKinley and Cibola counties. Significant damage also occurred on federal facilities, among them the Los Alamos National Lab site and the Gila National Forest’s Catwalk Trail, which was completely destroyed.
So far, 42 percent of the state’s counties have already declared disasters or emergencies, and more are anticipated. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent the last several weeks evaluating the scope of the damage.
“In light of the ongoing losses and possible long-term impacts from this extreme weather, we would request your expedited attention to the State of New Mexico’s request for disaster designation and assistance,” the delegation wrote. “The result of the September storms and flooding has been community evacuations, public infrastructure damage, landslides, and damaged homes throughout the state…. We appreciate this quick action to assist the state.”
The lawmakers also urged prompt action for Santa Clara Pueblo, which made a separate disaster request. The Pueblo, which is downstream of land damaged in the 2011 Las Conchas Fire, has experienced severe flooding caused by runoff over the burn scar for several years. Rains in July and again Sept. 13-16 exacerbated the damage. The Pueblo lost water control facilities in the Santa Clara Canyon, and roads, bridges and homes were damaged.
“All of the safety infrastructure built to deal with monsoonal rains causing flooding off of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire burn scar was destroyed as a result of severe rain and the associated flood event,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Four dams acting as the primary means to control water in Santa Clara Creek leading to the Pueblo’s residential area were completely destroyed, and roads, bridges, and community facilities experienced significant damage.”