By Thomas Garcia
Area lakes continue to benefit from increased summer rainfall, which has raised some water levels to their highest point in a decade.
Currently, Conchas Lake is at 4,180 feet above sea level, four feet higher than the 4,176-foot elevation recorded on July 26, according to Michael Vollmer, natural resource specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Vollmer said the increased elevation has presented an ironic problem: Two boat ramps that were closed last summer due to low water elevation are now submerged and closed to park visitors.
“Just a year ago we were trying to figure out how to get these ramps to the water,” Vollmer said, “and now they are underwater.”
The National Weather Service in Albuquerque reported great variation in rainfall totals from July 25-29, according to Tim Shy, NWS senior forecaster.
There was a reported .34 inches of rain at Tucumcari Municipal Airport, a cooperative observer four miles northeast of Tucumcari reported .66 inches of rain, a cooperative observer three miles southwest of Ragland reported 2.30 inches, and in San Jon there was a report of .46 inches.
The higher elevation of Conchas Lake is also good news for the Arch Hurley Conservancy District. The lake is the sole source of irrigation water for the 42,000 acres of farm land in Quay County the district serves.
“This is the best news Arch Hurley has had in years,” Franklin McCasland, district manager said.
McCasland said with the additional rainfall Arch Hurley will be able to release three additional acre-inches for all 42,000 acres, bringing this year’s allocation to a foot per acre for the district members. He said the elevation has also raised the hopes that with snow melt from a wet winter, the district will be able to offer their members water in 2015, the first time in at least 12 years that the district has been able to allocate water in two consecutive years.
McCasland said it has been 10 years since Conchas was at this level.
In late summer and early fall 2013, a series of storms in eastern New Mexico dumped 4 to 5 inches on some parts of Quay and San Miguel counties, raising the level of Conchas Lake more than 20 feet.
The Arch Hurley board acknowledged there was enough water in the lake in September, but voted not to release water then in favor of a spring release for crops.
“We are very pleased and optimistic with the recent rainfall,” McCasland said. “The district and its members are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.”
At the Ute Lake Reservoir near Logan, the water level rose 1.15 feet from July 25 to July 29, bringing the elevation to 3,779.81 feet above sea level, within 9 feet of its spillway, said Rex Stall, Ute Reservoir caretaker.
Stall said the lake is 6.86 feet from the maximum storage capacity for the reservoir of 3,786.68 feet. He said if the lake reaches that mark this year, water will be released into the Canadian River to flow toward Texas.
Stall said the last time there was a water release from Ute Lake Reservoir into the Canadian River was Sept. 6 to Sept. 30, 2006.
Attempts to contact officials at Sumner Lake were unsuccessful.