Need Dirt? The IBWC Has It – For Free!

Have you ever wondered if anyone cleans out the Rio Grande? I’ve never really thought about that. I always thought that whatever found its way into the river, and the canals that the river feeds, eventually finds its way into the Gulf of Mexico and out to the ocean.

This past week, and much to my surprise, I discovered that the International Boundary and Water Commission, the people in charges of the river, do clean out the river. As an aside, their counterparts in Mexico do the same thing.

 I rode along with Guy Hernandez, Operations and Maintenance Supervisor and Lori Kuczmanski, the IBWC Public Affairs Officer, and they showed me the work in progress.

Just over in Sunland Park, New Mexico, crews are working on clearing a channel along the middle of the river. This channel will serve two functions. First, it will help restore the natural flow of the river. This will help water move more efficiently downstream as well as benefit the farmers who depend on this water for irrigation.

The second benefit is that it will allow for the river to be self-cleaning, to a degree. I will help prevent the small “islands” that crop up along the river and to avoid debris from accumulating and slowing or stopping the flow of water.

Clearing the sediment from the river also has a bonus of helping to prevent floods. Not only is the river free of items that would block the flow of water, but they are also clearing and levelling areas adjacent to the river.

The current project, where the channel is being cut, removes dirt from an are that is three-hundred feet long and fifty feet wide. It’s a lot of dirt to move, and it’s beginning to pile up.

The current project is scheduled to remove about 1.2 million cubic yards of sediment. It’s a lot of dirt. Where is all that dirt going to go? I’m glad you asked.

The sediment, the dirt they are removing, can be used for anything from filling holes on your property to creating foundations for buildings as well as for agricultural purposes.

I did ask Guy Hernandez if there were any concerns about contamination with the dirt and he told me there wasn’t.

“I just talked to the City of Sunland Park,” said Mr Hernandez. “We have a no-cost agreement with them. A few council members have been questioning if the sediment that we’re removing from the river is contaminated. The IBWC has gotten samples from different parts of the sediment removal and they’ve tested, and the tests have come negative. Everything is clear.”

Some of the sediment that was removed was used at UTEP. Again, the contract there had samples tested, and zero contaminants were found.

What is the “no-cost agreement” that Mr Hernandez mentioned? That’s how members of the community can obtain dirt.

If you have a project at your home, your property, holes to fill, anything where a quantity of dirt is needed, the International Boundaries and Water Commission is accepting applications from people who would like to receive the soil.

There are a few qualifications you would need to meet – proof of ownership, tax documents, et al. Still, the process is easy, and the IBWC would be more than happy to walk you through it.

The IBWC is located at 2616 W Paisano Dr The area where Executive Center meets Paisano. Visit thier website by clicking here.

If you would like to get more information, you contact Rosie Montes or Art Benavides at 575-541-7045. You can also email Rosie at