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The ad hoc committee established to recommend future public uses of the Interior Drain ditch east of Corrales Road has requested funding from the Village to hire a professional planner. A request for $25,000 was made to the Village Council on May 5 during an a time slot assigned by Village Clerk Aaron Gjullin. Mayor Jo Anne Roake and councillors held budget discussions with Village government department heads and committees on May 4 and 5, ahead of a May 13 work-study session. Village officials must send a proposed budget for fiscal 2021-22 by the end of this month. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

A power point presentation for the funding request was assembled by committee member Sayre Gerhart, who previously served on the Village Council. Others appointed to the Corrales Interior Drain Committee last summer were Doug Findley, chair; John Perea; Jeff Radford; Ed Boles and Rick Thaler.

An exploratory planning effort began last fall for potential uses of nearly two miles of property about 60-foot wide, known as “the scummy ditch” or “the scuzzy ditch” east of Corrales Road. Some villagers consider it a treasured natural area with aquatic life, wetlands vegetation and sometimes even muskrats, while to other Corraleños, it is a disgusting, smelly near-sewer that breeds mosquitos. The long ditch and ditch bank roads run from north of Dixon Road to the Riverside Drain south of East Meadowlark Lane. The land is owned and managed by the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District which excavated it in the 1930s to lower the water table and drain land for agriculture.

Before the ditch went in, much of the central Corrales Valley east of Corrales Road was swamp. The Interior Drain was meant to improve the land so it could be farmed. As such, the ditch was designed to draw down the high water table and receive excess irrigation water which was to flow back to the Rio Grande when it reached the Riverside Drain which empties into the river at Alameda Bridge. But over the decades, the Interior Drain’s hydraulics have deteriorated, leaving a mostly disconnected, stagnant series of puddles. Less and less acreage is cultivated in that area, while more and more homes —and septic leach fields— have gone in, so that the ditch is now more of a conduit for household wastewater rather than irrigation return flow to the river.

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The committee appointed by Mayor Roake composed the following statement: “Our mission is to identify and help to implement ways in which the Interior drain and right-of-way may be improved for safe, enjoyable and essential public use while maintaining tranquility for adjacent residents.”

Since the Village of Corrales has no ownership in the land involved, the committee acknowledges that its eventual recommendations would need concurrence from the MRGCD to be implemented. The district’s chief concern is expected to be retaining full use of the ditch and ditch banks to perform routine maintenance. One of the first things the committee did was to document what is physically in the ditch and on the ditch banks, how the land is now used and what adjacent features should be taken into consideration, such as homes, trails and Corrales Elementary School and the playground there.

Suggested opportunities for future use of the land indicated in the presentation to the council included: a Fire Department fire suppression water line to fight fires east of the drain; horse riding; hiking; children’s access to school grounds; a pond; a green corridor for appreciation of nature and wildlife habitat; a butterfly garden; and improvements in air quality for neighbors asa result of reductions in dust.

In the presentation to the council, the committee outlined the following as “what problems are we trying to solve?” traffic, dust, safety, liability, loss of habitat and devaluation of property. Discussions with neighboring property owners and ditch bank users were said to begin this month and possibly a survey conducted at the Corrales Growers’ Market. As a preliminary concept, the committee is considering possible uses for three conditions along the ditch: ponds, water areas and xeric locations.

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