The Sandoval County Commission issued an emergency/disaster declaration in the Jemez Corridor as a result of severe flooding at the April 12 meeting.

The declaration allowed for exercising applicable emergency powers and expenditures of available resources, and requesting assistance and relief programs and funds available from the state of New Mexico and the federal government by the virtue of the All Hazard Emergency Management Act.

At the same meeting, Sandoval County Emergency Manager Theresa Greeno announced that her office received two grants in March for programming purposes. The timing was fortuitous as the funds from both of these awards support the very programming that was activated for the Jemez River Flooding Incident, in specific the Heavy Technical Rescue Team, which performs swift water rescues.

“The Sandoval County Office of Emergency Management was lead for the Jemez River Flooding Incident and continues to oversee the effort, supported by our Public Works Department,” County Manager Wayne Johnson said. “Assistance to communities affected by the flooding is being provided by the county, local and tribal governments, and state and federal agencies. The incident is now in recovery mode.”

Regarding rescue operations, Greeno said, “We are most fortunate to report that while the Rio Grande Basin Heavy Technical Rescue Team was deployed for the Jemez River Flooding incident, their particular skill set was not engaged for a rescue. These grants will be put to good use and the necessity of this programming was demonstrated during this recent event.”

One grant, from the State Homeland Security Grant Program, is for $400,100, and it will fund the Rio Grande Basin Heavy Technical Rescue Team and physical security upgrades at critical county facilities.

The second one is a Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) for $63,000; these funds will be used to update the county’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Both of these awards strengthen Sandoval County’s capabilities to be better prepared for particular types of emergencies and help ensure the county has the appropriate resources available.

Greeno said that while Sandoval County Emergency Management is responsible for administering the funds, the Rio Grande Basin Heavy Technical Rescue Team is a regional resource with members from Sandoval County Fire and Rescue, Rio Rancho Fire Rescue and Corrales Fire Department.

These rescue specialists are highly trained in specialty rescue techniques such as confined space, structural collapse, swift water rescue, large animal rescue, high-angle rope rescue, and wilderness search and rescue. They respond to calls throughout Sandoval County and other areas in the state at the request of those communities. This team’s equipment and much of its training are primarily funded by the State Homeland Security Grant. The remaining money will be used for security upgrades at critical county facilities.

Sandoval County’s CWDG is only one of five projects awarded in the state through a national application process, and only 22 states have received grants for this first round of funding. Authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CWDG prioritizes at-risk communities in an area identified as having high or very high wildfire hazard potential, low-income residents, or having been impacted by a severe disaster that increases the risk of wildfire. The funding allows Sandoval County to update the current CWPP to address wildfire response, hazard mitigation, community preparedness, structure protection, hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommendations on types of treatment on federal and non-federal land surrounding at-risk communities.