Water levels could rise at Brantley Dam north of Carlsbad from increased irrigation allotments and flooding rains across southeast New Mexico, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Carolyn Donnelly, water operations supervisor for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamations Albuquerque Area Office (AAO), said Brantley Dam was designed to hold large amounts of flood water.
The AAO is responsible for reclamation program activities in the Rio Grande, Pecos River, and Canadian River Basins and also serves 19 Native American pueblos and three tribes, stated the AAO website.
As of Wednesday, she said Brantley Dam had 40,000 feet for conservation storage for the Carlsbad Irrigation District (CID).
“Storage of water for later release for usual purposes such as municipal water supply, power, or irrigation in contrast with storage capacity used for flood control,” was the National Weather Service (NWS) definition for conservation storage.
Donnelly said Brantley has 10 times more space for flood waters.
“It was designed to hold a big flood and it will have no problem with this flood,” she said.
“Brantley has a very high flood capacity. That means we have more space. We are able to hold irrigation water in and safely contain the flood waters,” Donnelly said.
CID holds irrigation rights to water from Santa Rosa Lake where irrigation water flows along the Pecos River to Fort Sumner, Brantley Dam and the Lake Avalon reservoir, Donnelly said.
She said a CID irrigation block release earlier this month and storms producing heavy rains last weekend caused rising flood waters along the Pecos River north of Artesia.
“Sunday when we found out about the storm that the flow down that way, they decided it would be best to shutdown the block release from (Fort) Sumner Dam. It takes four or five days for that type of load to reach Brantley maybe even more,” Donnelly said.
“It had just gotten to Lake Arthur about the time that the flooding and the rain started all that started on Sunday,” she added.
Flood warnings issued earlier in the week for the Pecos River near Lake Arthur and Artesia remained intact Wednesday, according to NWS reports.
NWS in Midland, Texas extended the flood warning for the Pecos River east of Artesia until Friday evening.
The river runs under a bridge on U.S. highway 82 and was at 8.5 feet as Wednesday at 6:15 a.m., per an NWS report.
Forecasters anticipated river levels to rise above flood stage of 12.5 feet Thursday evening and to crest at 12.7 feet early Friday morning.
Water levels were forecast to fall below flood stage Friday morning, according to an NWS website.
The NWS in Albuquerque predicted record floods near Lake Arthur in southern Chaves County as a flood warning remained “until further notice.”
Water levels in the river were at 10.1 feet and the flood stage is 20 feet, the NWS website stated.
NWS forecasted water levels well above flood stage with a crest of 26.2 feet early Thursday with water levels falling bellowing flood stage throughout Thursday.
“The Pecos River has an efficient (flood) channel for about 2,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). When the flow gets up as high as this. There’s more growth, trees and unfortunately more homes and bridges that slow the water down,” Donnelly said.
She said the AAO encouraged people to leave the flood path if possible.
Increased water helps fishing in Brantley?
“I believe that with the great rain we had last week the lake will catch several feet of water this week. With this increase the lake becomes somewhat safer with deeper water over potentially hazardous areas that aren’t otherwise marked and allows more fishing areas that have been out of the water,” said Joby Houghtaling, president of the Pecos Valley Bass Masters (PVBM).
“The Pecos Valley Bass Masters club is excited to see this rain for these and many other reasons,” he said.
Around for more than 30 years, PVBM hosts fishing tournaments in New Mexico and Texas, including four this year at Brantley, read the organizations website.
“The lake has continued to drop in level all year due to the drought and sending water downstream, but with this last rain and the Pecos River at flood level it will see an increase,” Houghtaling said.
“Overall, the fishing has been good to excellent in both quality and quantity of fish for our club in the tournaments we have had this year on Brantley,” he added.