For the second time in less than a month, the Federal Emergency Management Administration has declared a disaster for Santa Clara Pueblo due to flooding.
Federal disaster aid has been made available to the tribe “to supplement the tribe’s efforts in the area affected by severe storms and flooding during the period of September 13–16, 2013,” FEMA said in a statement on October 25.
Barely a month ago, on September 27, FEMA declared a disaster for July floods to the tribe’s lands after more than three inches of rain fell there over as many days.
It’s the second consecutive year that the Santa Clara Pueblo has been plagued by floods as the tribe struggles to recover from the vegetation loss of the Las Conchas fire that devastated New Mexico in 2011.
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The Las Conchas fire, the largest in New Mexico’s history, burned a total of 156,593 acres, more than 6,000 of them on Santa Clara Pueblo lands, according to InciWeb and a statement from the tribe at the time. That included much of the tribe’s watershed lands, as well as “cultural sites, forest resources, plants and animals that the people of Santa Clara depend upon for their livelihood and culture,” the tribe said in 2011.
The heat of the fire not only stripped the lands of vegetation but also vitrified much of the soil, impeding recovery growth. Since then the tribe has feared every rainstorm, even in times of drought.
The September floods began after heavy rains that drenched parts of the state, including Santa Clara Pueblo, between September 9 and 22, according to Public News Service, a local news website. State lawmakers requested the assistance from President Barack Obama for both the tribe and the state as a whole.
The National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) termed it a “Historic Rainfall Event” and said that 13 homes were flooded, including a health center. Flooding debris was strewn over numerous roads, and a public walkway and skate park were eroded, NOAA said. As well, “a total of 79 structures were damaged in this multi-day event.”