San Juan River flow slated to reach 5,000 cubic feet per second on Tuesday for first time since 2012

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FARMINGTON — The spring peak release from Navajo Lake into the San Juan River was reduced last week following reports of minor flooding in southwest Bloomfield.

The San Juan County Office of Emergency Management asked the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to temporarily reduce the flow by 800 cubic feet per second so sandbags could be placed in an area to mitigate the flooding in an area off County Road 5008.

The flow was reduced Friday morning but will be increased to 5,000 cubic feet per second by Tuesday. The 5,000 cubic feet per second is enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool approximately every 18 seconds.

Mike Mestas, director of the office of emergency management, said a low-lying area off CR 5008 had some flooding on a driveway to a vacant lot. The office of emergency management planned to place sandbags at the location today.

Last year, a mobile home in the area was washed into the river during the runoff season.

"I just don't want it to get out of hand," Mestas said.

He said the office of emergency management is also watching an area off County Road 5500 southwest of Bloomfield where some debris has washed onto a bridge.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' safe channel capacity for the San Juan River is 5,000 cubic feet per second. Susan Behery, a spokeswoman for the bureau of reclamation, said the last time the bureau was able to release the full 5,000 cubic feet per second was in 2012.

"We do these releases to maintain channel capacity," she said.

By releasing the 5,000 cubic feet per second this year, it will clear out the San Juan River channel, she said.

The release also serves other purposes, such as maintaining storage space in the Navajo Reservoir. Behery said the reservoir is a little more than 7 feet from being full but is dropping in elevation. The last time it the reservoir was as full as it currently is was about a decade ago, she said.

Another reason for the spring peak release is to mimic natural runoff.

"We time them to benefit endangered species populations downstream," Behery said.

The Animas River was flowing at less than 2,000 cubic feet per second as of Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Service's data, and the La Plata River was flowing at about 12 cubic feet per second.

 Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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