Key for flood control is dredging of Arkansas River

Sen. Larry Crowder introduced legislation to the Water Resources Review Committee hearing on Wednesday with a presentation by Lower Arkansas Valley Engineer Mike Weber. Essentially, it is a dredging project, initially recommended by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in 1999 after that flood. The dredging was recommended, but nothing ever happened.

Sen. Crowder writes: "The sediment is an accumulation of sediment as far back as the 1965 flood. The contributing factors are the pre-Pueblo Dam project, Fountain creek as well as the Apishapa drainage. Some areas exceed 30 feet buildup and due to extremely high sub waters, we are losing farm ground as well as flooding individual homes out every year. It is time to eradicate this issue by dredging and the responsibility lies with the corps of Engineers who seem to have control of the rivers in this country. In my opinion the most critical areas are from just below the Ft. Lyon diversion to the John Martin reservoir. As farmers we all have to clean our ditches from time to time and the river which has been abused from upper entities is no different."

The problem has plagued North La Junta for a long time, and its fundamental reason is the river has silted up. A reliable source who has worked on the North La Junta Water Conservancy Board said the bed of the river is reported to be 20 to 22 feet higher than it was in the 1890’s, when records began to be kept. Just a look at the high water marks on the supports of the North La Junta Bridge will tell you the bed has risen since those marks were put there. The North La Junta Bridge was constructed circa 1956. "Otero County estimates channel capacity has been reduced from 15,000 cubic feet per second to 3,000 cfs," said Mike Weber in his report to the Water Resources Review Committee.

Dikes were built within the flood plain by local citizen Bud Quick and others to save North La Junta from flooding. In 2013, there was another high water flow in North La Junta. The North La Junta Flood Mitigation Project was funded in 2015 with the help of the LAVWCD grant in the amount of $40,000; Arkansas River Round Table, $25,000; City of La Junta, $10,000 and Otero County, $10,000. Kevin Muth moved some islands and stabilized the banks with his heavy equipment. Weber said, “The North La Junta project was a band aid. This bill would enforce the Corps of Engineers to do what they were supposed to do. Senator Crowder is doing everything he can at the state level.”

The dredging project suggested by Crowder would ensure a better flow for agriculture and prevent flooding for many years to come.