That old adage “water, water everywhere and nary a drop to drink” comes to mind as I review recent events in my busy life. Don’t we wish there was adequate and potable water nearby, as we watch this dry period continue.
I was fortunate, in the right place at the right time sort of thing, when the Rotary Club toured our Gallinas River, Bradner and Peterson Dam water storage areas. Bernadette and Robert, along with councilman Andrew Feldman gave us a cram course in basically what’s right and what’s wrong with Las Vegas water.
The wrongs completely outweigh the rights. This is shocking and scary, to say the least. I cruised up the Yangtzee River several years ago and got to see first-hand how the Chinese build massive dams. The weight of the water that will be backed up on this dam is huge and the steel and concrete used to build the dam may not be able to hold this weight.
Peterson Dam is to be raised 50 feet and the experts here say the weight/pressure at the bottom of this dam is 50 pounds per square inch.
This didn’t mean much to me until I got to stand at the base, the very bottom of this big dam. Yes, it is constructed in a geographically more-or-less safe place. The side walls of this dam are the granite, rock mountain. As the weight of the water pushed on the concave wall of the dam it actually forces the dam to fit tighter into the available space.
That is a good thing, as they say.
This dam was built, dedicated in February of 1911. Hundred-year-old concrete tends to dry out some, and then begins to flake off, so there is a pile, a row of flaked off concrete at the base. Mother Nature seeks out available cracks, crannies and weak points to plant her seeds, move her roots. Therefore, there are willow branches growing out of the side of the dam. I suspect the roots of this willow (there are several branches in the dam) will expand in time and begin to weaken the structure.
The riparian area affected by possible leaks in the dam is negligible. I thought we’d be wading in a small stream, and that is not the case. Willows always grow around water, and I doubt that will change in any way when the new concrete is added to the existing structure. Mother Nature is adept at changing whenever the situation arises, thankfully. I don’t see how raising the water level will affect much.
The larger, the huge problem as I see it is with the huge watershed area that feeds these dams. Now the experts are saying (loudly) that it is not if a forest fire erupts, it is when and if current La Niña weather conditions continue, fire is inevitable. That translates into no drinkable water will be available when the ash and silt wash into these dams.
Raton has these problems and we recover from fires around the state last year. Scary, to say the least.
We were taken to see the just completed diversion project as well.
Finally, it is safe (access used to be difficult, even dangerous) and although much of the mechanical movings of the water now is done using electricity, I learned everything also has manual controls, should there be a massive power failure.
Yes, we’ve come a long way in the last 100 years, but now I can say we also have a long way to go to guarantee adequate water for the entire planet in the next 100 years. May the heavy, wet snows of yesteryear return with a vengeance this winter!
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.