Water levels low, but spirits are high for Elephant Butte’s 100th birthday

    Elephant Butte turns 100.jpg

    Today was a special day at the Elephant Butte Dam, as the public and state officials celebrated its 100th birthday.

    But a problem the dam has seen for quite some time put a damper in the celebration.

    The water levels at Elephant Butte are at 6 percent.

    While that number is low, park officials say it’s normal for the water levels to fluctuate, especially after irrigation season.

    The Elephant Butte reservoir has been providing irrigation in Southern New Mexico, West Texas, and Mexico for many years, even throughout the drought.

    Mary Carlson, public affairs specialist bureau of reclamation in Albuquerque, notes that the water level,

    “Is low but it's not the lowest it's been. It was lower in 2013 and it was way lower in the 50's. So it's a reservoir doing what it's supposed to do – it’s storing water in times when the water supply is good.”

    Since 1964 Elephant Butte Lake State Park has been well known for its recreation.

    But the main purpose for the dam is irrigation, providing water to farmers for the past 100 years.

    "100 years ago today, October 19th, the dam was actually dedicated, so we're here today to mark that anniversary," said Carlson.

    Although its Elephant Butte Dam’s centennial, some called it bittersweet.

    "It's unfortunate to be marking such a special occasion with low water levels in the reservoir, “Carlson said.

    Typically Elephant Butte is full of water, but that is not the case today. However, local campers said there are some benefits to low water levels.

    "Today is just another day at the lake. We love the lake, and we hope people come to the lake because we have plenty of beach now that the water’s so low," Linde Polstin said.

    Although the lake is about 6 percent full today, that number is bound to change from rain and snow runoff from up north of the Rio Grande.

    Even with the end of summer, state park officials said there are plenty of reasons to come to the lake.

    Christy TaFoya, director of New Mexico State Parks, said,

    "It's still a beautiful time to get out on the lake and get a paddle craft or rent a boat and just have a great time."

    Park officials say it’s only a matter of time before the water levels start to rise again.

    They also say rainfall from the north and winter snow from Colorado will help the water levels rise.

    Park rangers also encourage visitors to reserve their spot at the lake in advance.

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