By Dianne Stallings
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Barbara Yates found it hard to control her emotions last month while telling Lincoln County commissioners about the damage to her property. (Dianne Stallings Ruidoso News)
An Alto North home owner returned to the Lincoln County Commission under public forum last week to press for action to prevent flooding at her home.
Resident Barbara Yates reminded the board of her complaint last month regarding flooding of her property she contends is caused by a large county culvert above her house.
"I was hoping I wasn't going to have to do this again, but since nothing has changed given the situation at my home, I am forced to stand before you again and ask for your consideration," Yates said.
Her voice breaking with emotion, she described a river of water descending on her property from the culvert.
"I have been speaking to the county about this since early spring," she said. "With the onset of the monsoons, it has become a damaging issue to my home. My home has been sinking due to this river of water that is forced to my house by the culvert on the road above me."
She's tried to mitigate the damage by hand digging ditches around the house, she said, but it is not a permanent solution. The sediment continues to wash down and fill up the ditches.
"I'm 61 years old and forced to continually dig out ditches and I can't do it forever," she said.
She suggested to commissioners who visited her home that an under-the-road culvert installed on Pine Hill Loop could redirect the water to the other side of the road, which has a natural topography flow and would not cause flooding on other property, despite opinions of County Manager Nita Taylor and Road Superintendent Carl Palmer to the contrary.
She also spoke to the other property owner and gave his contact information to county officials. She said he stated he would sign whatever is needed, if officials thought redirection would be an issue. That owner already has a driveway culvert 6 feet back from the county easement, giving the county almost 10 feet to install another underground culvert, Yates said.
She also presented statements from a septic service owner saying eventually her leach field may fail and from landscape businesses, whose representatives wrote that nothing they could do would be a permanent solution.
Commissioner Tom Stewart asked about a flooding disclosure statement signed by Yates when she purchased the home. Yates said she will provide the statement, but questioned why it enters into the county making a decision.
"Regardless of what the seller disclosed, a county culvert redirected the water and continues to cause the problem," Yates contended. "If we were talking natural watershed, I would not be in front of you."
"When I first met with you in February, you told me it was disclosed to you that there was a flooding problem," Stewart said. "I would like to see the disclosure statement, because I can't see paying tax dollars for something disclosed to you."
Yates pointed out that the seller also stated there were no continuing flooding issues, and that the county changed out a smaller culvert for a larger one about 18 months ago.
"Remember, this area was in a period of drought," Yates said of the months preceding the purchase of her home. "I understand we've received the heaviest rains this spring and summer in years. With the county not willing to do anything, whatever actions (the seller) took at the time may have worked for a year, but is not working now."