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How safe are Borderland dams?

Dam in the Borderland (Credit: KFOX14)

It’s a question that’s now on the minds of many residents in our region, “How safe are dams in the Borderland?" The concern comes following the Oroville Dam crisis in California that forced the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people who live nearby this week. While receding water has allowed those residents to return to their homes for now, they've been told to remain on alert for another possible evacuation.

There are more than 100 dams in Dona Ana and El Paso counties. That's according to the National Performance of Dams Program, based at Stanford University, which monitors dams nationwide. It reports that dams in the Borderland are used for everything from flood control to irrigation and creating ponds.

When it comes to the potential threat to people and property these dams pose if they were to fail, the NPDP lists most dams in the two counties as either a significant or high risk.

This week, USA Today reported that one-fifth of the nation's dams in populated areas lack an emergency plan for people who live downstream, if a dam were to fail. The newspaper reported that the problem is even worse in New Mexico, where 61percent of the state's dams lack an emergency action plan.

I'm making calls to authorities in both New Mexico and Texas, to try and learn more about dam safety in our region. I'll bring you the answers I get in upcoming posts.

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