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Civil Engineering Professor Serves on Storm Water Agency Board

February 24, 2011

bruceBruce Thomson, Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of UNM’s Water Resources Program, has begun a new adventure in politics. In the November 2010 general election, he ran for and won a seat on the Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Metropolitan Arroyo Flood Control Authority (AMAFCA). The board’s increased emphasis on environmental aspects of storm water and its conveyance began to capture his interest and when the District 5 seat on the Board came open, Thomson won with 62% of the vote.

AMAFCA ( was created in the mid-1960’s with responsibility for managing most storm water in Bernalillo County west of the Sandia mountains. The most familiar AMAFCA feature is the North Diversion Channel which runs north from near the Big I interchange (I-25 and I-40) up to Sandia Pueblo property where it discharges into the Rio Grande.

In the past decade or so, AMAFCA has begun to emphasize quality-of-life and environmental features in its designs which include public art, increased access for bicycle paths and walking trails, and open space features in its storm water retention ponds and reservoirs. AMAFCA is probably the only flood control authority in the country that owns a hang glider landing field!

Continuing UNM CE’s tradition of service
Thomson’s presence on the Board continues a long line of AMAFCA involvement of UNM faculty. Civil Engineering Professor Marvin May was a founding member of the Board and had previously done design studies for various flood control options that ultimately led to design and construction of the North Diversion Channel. Professor Dick Clough, CE professor and former dean of the School of Engineering, was a member of the Board in the 1970’s. Cliff Anderson, a CE instructor and Ph.D. student, was a member of the Board in the late 1990’s. The UNM connections are further strengthened because AMAFCA’s Executive Engineer is Jerry Lovato, who received his BSCE and MSCE from UNM.

The CE Department has another connection to AMAFCA. Over 20 years ago, Professors Richard Heggen and Glenn Sears built a large hydraulic flume with AMAFCA support which has been used ever since to test designs for hydraulic features with geometries that are too complicated to model numerically. Professor Julie Coonrod has been in charge of the flume for the past decade and each year she and her students conduct studies for AMAFCA, other agencies and consultants. Many of the most recent projects have focused on development of structures to capture debris and improve the quality of storm water.

While AMAFCA is a small organization with a very focused mission, Thomson is looking forward to public service in the role of decision and policy maker, instead of being just another attendee in the back of the room at public meetings.