MRGCD signs design agreement for middle rio grande flood protection project

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico– The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Albuquerque District signed a design agreement for a flood control project with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), here, June 13.

The agreement allows USACE to begin Pre-construction Engineering and Design (PED) of the Middle Rio Grande, Bernalillo to Belen project, which is intended to reduce flood risk along the Rio Grande by reconstructing non-engineered levees along the river from the southern end of Albuquerque to Belen, NM.

“This milestone is exciting as it is a start for a 10-plus year project that will greatly reduce flood risk along 30 miles of the Rio Grande and bring our communities closer together,” said Lt. Col. Jerre Hansbrough, commander, USACE-Albuquerque District.

The next phase of the project after entering the agreement June 13 will replace non-engineered levees in the Mountain View unit, which runs along the east side of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque from the South Diversion Channel near Rio Bravo Boulevard south to where the I-25 bridge crosses the Rio Grande. This will be followed by design and construction phases on both sides of the Rio Grande moving downstream to Belen.

“What we’re doing today is not inconsequential from the size of the project and the impact to the community, and a lot of work goes into that,” said Jason Casuga, chief engineer and CEO of the MRGCD.

“Anytime we can show the public that things are moving forward is a positive,” Casuga said. “It’s hard to show the public that with projects this complex. A lot of those planning steps that are hard for the public to see are behind us. The process that we’re starting now from design to construction is really a lot shorter process than the planning and environmental elements that play into a project like this.”

Congress authorized construction of the project in the Water Resources Development Act of 2020. This part of the design is 75% funded by the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and 25% funded by the MRGCD.

“This agreement starts the next element of the largest flood risk management project in New Mexico for over 50 years,” Hansbrough said. “It feels great to work well with our partners and advance environmental justice, and to spur economic development.”

The overall project is located in Bernalillo and Valencia Counties, and extends south approximately 30 miles from the southern border of Albuquerque to just past the southern border of Belen.

It will provide protection to the southern metropolitan area of Albuquerque, and the communities of Corrales, Los Lunas, Bosque Farms, Belen, Mountain View, and the Pueblo of Isleta. The Corrales unit has already been constructed.

“The public needs to know that the people who work on this, we care,” Casuga said. “The people that are working on this are from New Mexico and recognize the communities. We recognize the need and we’re working as hard as we can to bring about construction of a facility that meets the need.”