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Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - 11:59am

Elephant Butte Lake water levels not an issue for Memorial Weekend visitors

Juan Gutierrez
Friday, May 24, 2013 - 8:42pm

It's a Memorial Day weekend tradition for a lot of people in the Southwest making the short trip to Elephant Butte Lake for a day of fun in the water.

But with the current drought how is it affecting the lake and visitors?

"All the weekends have been busy," said NM State Parks Southwest Regional Manager Rolf M. Hechler.

Hechler said the lake is currently about 10 to 12 miles long with about 220,000 acre feet of water.

He added even at the lower than usual capacity, they saw 87,000 visitors on Memorial Day weekend last year and about 93,000 the year before.

The signs of declining water levels are visible on the rocky terrain throughout the lake, almost like rings on a bathtub.

"We just haven't had enough snow and rain to get us back to where we were before," said Marine Enforcement Officer Greg Claesson.

Claesson, who patrols the lake, said the water levels top more than 60 feet on the south end and reach about 10 feet on the north end and is plenty of water for all sorts of activities.

For visitors, the lower levels have not affected their enjoyment at the lake.

"We usually go tubing then wake boarding," said Andre Moezzi who visits the lake every week with his family.

Moezzi said the water is perfect for their water activities and they plan on continuing to visit throughout the remainder of the summer.

With Memorial Day weekend being the unofficial start to summer, businesses in the area depend heavily on the tourism during the following months.

"It's really the first big weekend that people as a family can get away and I think that's what draws them to Elephant Butte," said James Pecherski, owner of Casa Taco.

Caso Taco is well known in town for their slow-cooked brisket and carne asada and Pecherski and his staff prepare weeks in advance for the holiday weekend.

"We can become the third largest city in New Mexico just on those large weekends," he said.

But recently, Pecherski has been hearing several people say the lake is dry and has no water.

That is far from the truth.

"The bottom line is there is a ton of water here this is the highest point the lake is going to be all year there's a lot of fun to be had," he said.

Elephant Butte officials anticipate more than 80,000 people throughout the weekend and will have extra staff on hand to make sure everybody stays safe.

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