By Cassie McClure
Published in Published in the Las Cruces Sun News 08/30/20.
Pete Duran, Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) Interim gas system operations supervisor, had his own home lights go out thanks to the microburst storm last week. He knew too, that there were key spots in Las Cruces that become a problem when heavy monsoon rains send water barreling through the desert. LCU has an established process to check those areas for washouts and is ready to repair immediately.
This time it was the arroyo on Del Rey Boulevard that saw damage. Another LCU associate who lives in the area called Duran and he sent out an inspector before 7 a.m. Sure enough, about 5-feet down from the lip of the road, there was an exposed gas line.
“The worry we have is if rocks or debris travel through the water with enough force to puncture the line,” said Duran. “We check for leaks immediately and then assess the situation for how we can best repair it.”
In this case, the City of Las Cruces Public Works Department was out too. Lorenzo Renteria, streets maintenance manager, pulled over to talk to Duran who was at the scene. By that time, the LCU front and backhoe loader had already arrived, and LCU associates were setting up cones to allow for drivers heading in to work to know about LCU’s presence.
As the loader headed into the arroyo, Renteria and Duran discussed more permanent solutions that their departments might be able to collaborate on, including a possible construction of a gabion – a chain-link fence covering rocks that slows and traps dirt and eases the dirt erosion caused by the water.
“There will always be areas of town that are more problematic when it comes to what we can do to mitigate future problems, but we want to be able to not only do quick fixes but find long-term solutions to secure how customers receive gas,” said Lucio Garcia, LCU deputy director Gas.
For some of the solutions, collaboration is key – not just with different City departments, but also with other businesses. At Del Rey, an underground telephone line ran adjacent to the gas line. Quick calls by Duran to confirm the situation, and the loader had the go ahead to take dirt back toward the gas line, dumping buckets of dirt and tamping it down securely.
With a tossed trampoline further down the arroyo and more downed power lines in the distance, Duran heads back through the nearby neighborhood to check the location of another gas line, this one thankfully kept underground by a gabion already installed. He said, “Just like electrical crews, LCU associates head out after a storm to make sure utility services remain uninterrupted for our customers.”
LCU can be reached at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. LCU provides services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.
PHOTO 1: Heavy storms unearth gas lines that need to be checked for damage and covered by LCU.