Cabresto Dam repairs almost completed

Leaky dam needed new liner


Work to plug a persistent leak in the Cabresto Dam, northeast of Questa, is nearing completion after a hiccup delayed the project past its initial deadline.

Starting in mid-August, Meridian Contracting, an Albuquerque-based engineering firm, drained the lake and began to install a liner on the right abutment of the dam - a necessary move to fix a longstanding problem with the dam not being able to hold water.

The original Cabresto Dam was built in 1922 but was plagued with persistently poor safety ratings and seeping water caused by heavy rainfall. It was a problem for irrigators, as the New Mexico State Engineer limited the amount of water the owners of the dam - the Cabresto Lake Irrigation Community Ditch Association and Llano Community Ditch - could use during the growing season.

Locals water users, engineers and state officials in charge of the pools of funding for infrastructure attempted to fix the issues once and for all by building a new damn in 2014. But that dam continued to have seepage issues and the state engineer continued to limit water use.

In 2016, a project to add a liner to the dam was put out to bid, but funding was too scant to actually start and finish the work, according to Melissa Dosher, the state engineer's spokesperson. The project was rebid in 2017 as the office gathered more funding.

The state awarded an overall contract of $1.2 million, Dosher said.

The liner installation is financed by capital outlay funding - money allocated by the state Legislature - that is managed by the Office of the State Engineer, according to Dosher. The office's Dam Safety Bureau has overseen the project.

In August, Dosher projected Oct. 30 would be the "substantial completion date." But an issue with movement in the liner has caused delays.

As Danny Garcia, president of the Cabresto Lake ditch association, told The Taos News, "the liner stayed in place, but it started to pull from the top. It's holding but they don't want to leave it."

The liner had "to be adjusted because there was too much tension in [one location]," Dosher said.

"The liner crew is very specialized and they were not available until today. The [issue] is being addressed today and this week," Dosher said Monday (Dec. 11).

"Our understanding is that the work will be substantially complete by the end of the week," Dosher said.

While no penalties have yet been placed on the company doing the work, the Office of the State Engineer will be making the final adjustments to contract changes in the coming weeks, Dosher said, and "any final pricing or schedule questions will be accommodated in that process."