Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Buoyant at the Butte.(Final)

Byline: Jeff Jones Journal Staff Writer

Determined to have fun, Memorial Day weekend visitors flood in despite low water levels

ELEPHANT BUTTE LAKE -- With his first bottle of beer of the day close at hand, Kevin Mulvaney smoked a cigarette outside his tent Saturday morning and looked down at the lake.

A pale band extending dozens of feet above the waterline clearly marked where Elephant Butte -- New Mexico's largest reservoir -- sploshed against the rock-strewn shore during wetter years. But Mulvaney, a Brooklyn, N.Y., transplant who moved here just a week ago to attend the University of New Mexico, wasn't complaining.

"Lookit. The lake's beautiful to me," Mulvaney said as he gazed at the water. Pale white streaks marked where a rapidly growing number of boaters and jet-skiers slashed at the still-gentle morning waves. "The lake's gorgeous. I didn't think there'd be a lake in the middle of the desert, to be honest."

Those who rely on the Butte for income or entertainment have had a drought of good news this year. As part of a deal with Texas designed to give this state flexibility in handling what little water it has, the Butte -- which is already at less than 18 percent of capacity -- is expected to drop an additional 25 feet by summer's end.

Some have feared the deal, which will send additional water out of the gates again next year, would crush Sierra County businesses that rely on the lake for its recreational draw. …

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