How safe are dams in New Mexico?

New Mexico dam (Credit: KFOX14)

In this "Just Ask John," what I've learned about the safety of dams in the Borderland.

As I reported last week, there are more than 100 dams in El Paso and Doña Dona Ana counties. Most of them would pose a significant or high danger to people and property downstream, if they were to fail.

This issue has become a hot topic after concerns about the possible failure of the Oroville Dam in California, which forced nearly 200,000 people to evacuate.

The New Mexico State Engineer's Office in Santa Fe is the primary agency responsible for inspecting dams and ensuring their safety across the state. It has 299 dams in its inventory.

A spokeswoman for the State Engineer's Office disputed a recent report from USA Today that alleged more than 60 percent of New Mexico's dams lack an emergency action plan. That's basically a plan to get people who live downstream, out of harm's way, should a dam fail. She said all dams that pose a high or significant hazard, are required under state law, to have an emergency action plan.

The State Engineer's Office also provided KFOX14 with an inspection report that indicated New Mexico dams are inspected on a revolving basis, every three to five years.

In my next report, I'll let you know what I've learned about dam safety in Texas.

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