By Chelle Delaney: Freedom Newspapers
Fueled by monsoon rains, the water level at Conchas Lake is the highest it’s been in at least five years, according to officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
With higher water levels, more water will be available to irrigate farm and ranch operations south of the dam as well as for recreational activities at the lake, according to Gary Cordova, operations manager for the Corps Conchas Dam Project.
Cordova said the area has received 6.5 inches of rain since the beginning of the month.
“Models that we used in the spring showed us running out of water,” Cordova said. “Now, there should be enough water for Arch Hurley and their members throughout the growing season — through September.
Conchas Lake supplies the Conchas Canal, which provides irrigation to some 41,000 acres of farmland and ranchland through the Arch Hurley Water Conservancy. From the dam to Tucumcari, the canal is about 40 miles long.
“We talk daily to Arch Hurley to let them know what the water levels are and to adjust the gates for the water into the canal,” Cordova said.
The lake is also a popular eastern New Mexico spot in the warm months for water activities and year-round for fishing.
“Access for boaters has been good on the south side of the lake. It should also be one of the better years for fishing,” Cordova said. “This spring the fishing should be awesome.”
From Aug. 1 to Aug. 21, the water level rose 5 feet to 4,175 feet, Cordova said. At 4,201 feet, Conchas Lake will crest at the dam and water will come over the spillway to flow into the Canadian River, Cordova said.
“This is easily the best level since 2000,” said Joe Martinez, maintenance team leader.
A 1941 agreement between the Corps and the Bureau of Reclamation established Conchas Lake as the water source for the Arch Hurley Conservancy.