Work on river levee suspended

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Work to reconstruct a seven-mile stretch of the Rio Grande levee east of Socorro has been suspended until spring — pending negotiations between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a report made at the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board meeting Nov. 12.

“The parties are very close to agreement,” said MRGCD assistant engineer Ray Gomez. “They are working out the details.”

Gomez said the project is about 95 percent complete, and work should resume in March 2013.

The current spoil-bank levee was built with material excavated from the riverside drain and does not meet current post-Katrina U.S. Corps of Engineers standards, he said.

“It does provide some flood protection, but in order to get it approved for flood control, the levee has to be engineered,” he said.

Currently, part of the city of Socorro is designated as a flood-plain, and homeowners are required by Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy flood insurance. When the levee is certified, homeowners in that part of the city will no longer be required to purchase flood insurance.

“The levee has to be certified, and FEMA will not certify a spoil-bank levee,” Gomez said.

The entire 43-mile stretch of levee between San Acacia dam and San Marcial is scheduled for reconstruction by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The first phase is the seven-mile section east of Socorro.