Photo courtesy EP Water
The rain events of July and August 2021 proved to be some of the most significant rain events in the history of our region. While many of El Paso’s stormwater structures held up during the heavy rainfall, the localized severity of the storms – particularly in Central El Paso – overwhelmed and damaged many parts of the system.
“The force of nature can do a considerable amount of damage, especially when stormwater is coming down at a high velocity carrying rocks and debris,” said President and CEO John Balliew. “Some of our concrete channels were badly damaged by this force.”
According to EP Water officials, after the storm events, the Public Service Board approved an emergency declaration that allowed EPWater to make immediate repairs. Nestled within the Lakehurst neighborhood off Resler Drive, the Ojo de Agua channel that conveys runoff from the mountain saw a large section of the concrete channel severely damaged and washed away.
“We’ve made good progress on repairing the channel,” said Project Manager Rafael Velazquez. “Even with the second heavy rain event in August, the project remains on track to be completed later this year.”
Officials say that initial repairs to the channel consisted of clearing debris, including large chunks of cement that became dislodged by fast rushing stormwater. Crews are now refilling the sides of the channel with compacted dirt to ensure improved support for new rebar and cement.
Since monsoon season was still in full force when the project started, EPWater engineers and contractors took proactive measures to protect the work area from the next big storm.
“We put our heads together and came up with a plan just in case more rain was headed our way,” said Velazquez. “The idea was to create a smaller cement channel within the work area that would funnel stormwater through the site without disturbing completed work. When rains pounded the area in August, it had little to no impact on the project’s progress.”
Repairs and improvements to the Ojo de Agua Channel are expected to be completed by December 2021.
According to utility officials, as a result of the storm, EPWater received 129 service requests, and 55 have been completed so far with many more to go.
EPWater has a growing list of 62 locations that were deemed emergency stormwater repairs. Of those, 8 have been completed, 21 are in progress, and 7 will require capital infrastructure planning and funding.
“For example, projects like the Thunderbird Channel, High Ridge Channel, and Canterbury Channel on the westside will require more time and planning due to the size of the repairs needed,” EP Water officials added.
Many other projects have been completed that address immediate issues, such as removing sediment and debris from storm drains or minor concrete repairs. More than 2500 inlets have been cleaned.
For residents that may spot damage to parts of the stormwater system – whether channels, ponds and inlets – email a picture with the location to firstname.lastname@example.org