The Future of Snow and Water in a Changing Climate: El Vado Dam Update

Aerial view of El Vado Dam/Courtesy Bureau of Reclamation

Chama Peak Land Alliance

According to Carolyn Donnelly, the water operations supervisor for the Bureau of Reclamation in Albuquerque, those who care about the Rio Chama will enjoy today’s February 25 Rio Chama Congreso webinar and the hybrid sessions April 29 and 30.  She says, “If you care about the Rio Chama, whether you are a boater, camper, or a fisher or hunter, you will probably learn something at the Congreso. It is put on by people who care about the Rio Chama, and the same is true for the speakers and attendees. Besides learning about some of the happenings on the river, there will be discussions about what we might expect in 2022. Finally, this is a way for you to discuss the Rio Chama river and watershed with the diverse group of folks who live along and care about it.”

The speakers for the session in the webinar covering El Vado updates will be Carolyn Donnelly and Cord Everetts.  Carolyn holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of New Mexico. She began her engineering career as a consulting engineer, then moved to river engineering at Reclamation and in 2010 was promoted to water operations supervisor at Reclamation. She is a native New Mexican who grew up in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Before completing her education and working as an engineer, she was a professional bike racer. She doesn’t cycle much anymore, but is very active and loves a long, difficult, remote hike or backpacking trip.  Cord Everetts is a project manager with the Bureau of Reclamation. He has over thirty years experience and has worked on a wide variety of projects, from small construction designs to large acquisitions.

Carolyn says if recreationalists have floated the Rio Chama, it is most likely the section between El Vado Dam and Abiquiu Reservoir. “The flow in this section is controlled by releases from El Vado. Reclamation works hard to make releases meet multiple purposes. We work with our San Juan – Chama contractors, particularly the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority and the City of Santa Fe, to release water that must be moved to Abiquiu in a manner that enhances recreation and benefits the ecology. During the construction at El Vado, Reclamation will continue to strive to meet these needs as best we can and learning about it will help you understand what you see on the Rio Chama, whether you fish, float, or quietly enjoy the natural beauty.” 

According to Carolyn, Reclamation works very hard to balance the needs and uses that they are aware of, and if possible, to release water in a way that meets multiple goals. “For example, last fall Reclamation was obligated to release a fairly large volume of water retained for the Middle Rio Grande Pueblos to Elephant Butte Reservoir. We spent a lot of time and effort coordinating and were able to release it in a pulse from El Vado to Abiquiu intended to move fine sediment that deposits within the gravels in the riverbed, and this hopefully improved the brown trout habitat.”  Register for the free event at the Rio Chama Congreso,