County faces flooded road problem


The Socorro County Commission heard about washed-out roads during department reports at the commission’s regular meeting Aug. 13.

County road Superintendent Marty Greenwood said as long as he’s worked for Socorro County, he has never seen as many roads washed out all over the county as he has this season. He brought some photos to show commissioners.

“We’re having a heck of a time keeping caught up,” Greenwood said. “Everything that we do, by the following Monday it’s all gone again. Basically, for the last three weeks now, we almost lose everything that we get done to the weekend rains that fall.”

Greenwood said the county has had a lot of rain this year. In some areas by Las Nutrias, he said 4.2 inches fell in an hour — more than the area received all of last year. Other areas of the county have seen 2 1/2 to 3 inches of rain fall fast and heavy at times.

Greenwood said the road department staff are trying to keep up with washed-out roads as best they can. He noted some county residents are happy with their work while others are “really mad at us.” Greenwood said the road department can only do so much at one time, and staff tell people they will fix roads as soon as they’re able.

Greenwood advised the commissioners to let the road department know about any complaints from constituents, and staff will try to fix the roads that inspire complaints.

Commission chairman and District IV Commissioner Daniel Monette asked if the county has to declare a disaster before they can get federal funding through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Greenwood affirmed that was correct.

Greenwood said the road department has been taking photos of washed-out roads and documenting all the extra work the department has had to do. He said some staff have been working overtime, but they try to keep that to a minimum. With the documentation, he said the county will be able to apply for funding if any becomes available.

Greenwood said one photo he showed commissioners, of county Road 131, was a FEMA project the county just completed two years ago. He said recent flooding washed about 80 percent of it away.

Monette said it was a good problem to have as the county needs the rainfall. Greenwood agreed, saying farmers and ranchers in areas where roads were washing away would have been doomed if there hadn’t been rain.

Greenwood said several people have had property damage, including flooded homes, due to the heavy rains. County Manager Delilah Walsh added the county can’t use taxpayer funds to make improvements on private property.

“Which is why we encourage everybody to have flood insurance,” Walsh said.

Walsh said every county in the state sees similar issues; people build homes in arroyos and those homes get flooded.

“Anywhere there’s a mountain and a river, flooding is going to be an issue,” Walsh said.

Greenwood said over by Claunch there were places with water standing over areas “10 times bigger than Escondida Lake” with a county road going through the middle.

Walsh said Socorro County has more road mileage than any other county in the state except one, yet is also one of the poorest counties in the state.

Following the road department report, Fred Hollis, county fire marshal and emergency management department coordinator, gave his report. Hollis said the county can’t add up several rainstorms to get an emergency declaration; it would have to be one rain event.

Hollis said, however, if storms cause enough damage in counties across the state, the state may get an emergency declaration covering a specified time frame. Socorro County could then be classified under that declaration and therefore be eligible for emergency funding. He said the state emergency declaration appears likely to happen as severe storms this season have caused considerable damage all over the state.