As officials work on solution, Belen flooding leads to lawsuit

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BELEN, N.M.- Flooding in Belen has prompted a lawsuit.

4 Daughters Land & Cattle Company, which operates a pecan orchard, alleges the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District isn’t managing the High Line Canal.

The lawsuit claims, when water runs off the mesa from the west, sediment and other debris can get caught up and impact the canal’s capacity to move water.

During a major storm event, the canal can breach and cause damage to property. That was the case in 2017.

The lawsuit claims mature pecan trees were destroyed, costing this farm between $500,000 and $700,000.

Now they are seeking damages, and a solution.

Mike Mechendier, who owns the farm, said flooding in 2017, 2018, and 2021 have cost the farm $2 million in damages.

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, which wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, has a motion to dismiss this lawsuit on Thursday.

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District claims they are working toward a long-term solution.

The CEO of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District said they’ve obtained federal funding for a flood plan.

"What that will do is protect the High Line and those that reside below it from the 100-year storm event. Now it if it rains more than 100 years, that’s a different problem, but that’s the standard that everyone goes by," CEO Mike A. Hamman said.

The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District applied for the federal money in 2019, following the 2018 floods.

"Once it is designed, then there will be another phase, the construction phase, that could be several million dollars, which we expect," Hamman said.

Hamman said the money will come from the federal government. The project would need to be completed by 2025.