Sandoval Signpost

 

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988
 
 

Plan to open Rio Grande rises from the ashes

—Ty Belknap

On June 28, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District closed the bosque in Sandoval County. For the second year in a row, boaters and swimmers were denied access to the Rio Grande when during a month of drought and record heat. The very conditions that create a demand water recreation also cause an extreme threat of wildfire, as proven by the Corrales Bosque fire that torched over 250 acres on June 20 [See page 1, this Signpost.]

Michael Hayes, owner of Quiet Waters Paddling in Bernalillo, was not happy about it. He says that the bosque closure cost him dearly during his peak season of renting water crafts and guiding river trips down the Rio Grande. Hayes questions the wisdom of closing the river to recreation in order to prevent fires. “It’s a backward approach to land management,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to close the river and bosque to people who love the place. There aren’t enough officials to patrol 150 miles of the middle Rio Grande. Recreational users in a plastic kayak won’t start fires, and they can keep an eye on things.” He said that banning recreationists turns the bosque over to the part of the population that poses the greatest threat—careless smokers, drunks, and arsonists.

Hayes came to this area in 2007 with nothing but a canoe on his SUV and a camper. When he took up residence at Coronado Campground on the Rio Grande, he expressed amazement to the management that there was no developed river access. Soon there was a river access where the Town collects five dollars per launch. Hayes started Quiet Waters with just a few boats. Already this year, he had put three thousand boaters on the river, in either guided or unguided tours from launch sites in Algodones, Bernalillo, and Corrales.

“People who have lived here for years tell me that they had no clue about what a beautiful space ran right through Albuquerque.”

In a state full of non-swimmers and “Ditches are Deadly” campaigns, most people don’t consider the recreational opportunities provided by the Rio Grande. Things might change, though, as you can see from this press release:

“As part of the Department of Interior’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, on January 5, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Albuquerque and met with over one hundred local community leaders to discuss strengthening existing collaborative efforts in the Middle Rio Grande region (the 180-mile stretch of river between Cochiti and Elephant Butte reservoirs). Secretary Salazar challenged the attendees to develop a local partner-driven plan for the Middle Rio Grande Conservation Initiative Plan. Secretary Salazar appointed an eight-member committee to develop the Plan by July 2012. The goal of the Plan is to enhance conservation, education, and recreation efforts in the Middle Rio Grande, building on existing efforts and successes.”

Salazar returned in July to collect the 250-page report that can be found at: www.middleriogrande.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=fUo9q2PXTPY%3D&tabid=488&mid=1401.

It is not clear where the plan goes from here. The Interior Department is poised to purchase the Price’s Dairy property in the South Valley and turn it into an urban wildlife refuge. Mayor Berry is pushing for commercial development such a boardwalks and whitewater parks. The report discussed an interconnecting “Blue/Green” system of water and land trails along the extent of the Middle Rio Grande (and possibly statewide).

Bernalillo Planning and Development Director Maria Rinaldi said of the Initiative, “I’m excited about the idea of balancing preservation and recreational use of the river, but I am hesitant about commercial use if it keeps the general population from recreational and cultural uses that they already enjoy. Bernalillo has water in its psyche.” Other than the launch site at Coronado Campground, MRGCD and Coronado Monument control river access in Bernalillo.

Michael Hayes says that two simple steps toward making the river more accessible would be for the MRGCD to open already existing roads and to stop kicking recreationists out during the summer.


New water harvesting and conservation initiative in Placitas

—Tony Hull

During a recent meeting at the Placitas Public Library’s Collin Meeting Room, a large engaged crowd—nearing building capacity—gave input on a new vital project. The meeting started with Lynn Montgomery describing the state of water availability in Placitas. The community of Placitas now has well over two thousand homes. In this context, Lynn and resident Vickie Peck discussed what could be done to help the community deal with shifting realities of water availability. The two went to The New Mexico Water Collaborative (NMWC) and discussed what could be done with NMWC Director Yvette Tovar. The NMWC is a 501(c )3 organization. It was decided that something should and could be done. Partnering with the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District, the idea was to start small with a pilot program that would serve as both a demonstration project for those considering water harvesting and conservation and to help the community understand interests and profiles for potential, more extensive projects of this kind.

The NMWC group brought the “Water Harvesting and Conservation Initiative” to the Placitas community, with the intent of getting started and educating the community on effective and highly practical measures.

The program will select up to ten projects (residences, businesses, or government buildings) to be defined in proposals, which will be written in September for grant funding. Many things can be done to harvest water, and then better utilize the water we have. Rainwater catchments are an obvious safeguard. By using water more efficiently in our homes, and capturing gray water (recycled water from washing machines, showers, and bathroom sinks), we can help keep our water running in this time of drought.

Grants to individuals will be on a sliding scale based on income to ensure that the program is accessible to all income levels. The co-pay may be as small as one percent of the cost to upgrade a house, and in some cases, even that may be met by contributions. If you did not attend this meeting and are interested in proposing a property for the pilot project, you are not too late. Application forms are available at the Placitas Community Library, or you can email Yvette Tovar at yvette.tovar@nmwatercollaborative.org, or call 505-440-1350. You can also contact Lynn Montgomery at: sunfarm@toast.org.
 
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