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Permaculture expert Jim Brooks discusses the benefits of the swales volunteers installed in a section of the Placitas Open Space to capture water to prevent runoff and erosion.
Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Erosion control in Open Space

Signpost Staff

The calendar says spring but it feels like winter as a hardy group of volunteers troop into the Placitas Open Space on a quest to fight erosion. Already, they’ve etched and bermed shallow swales on hillsides following contour lines to capture storm water. Juniper trimmings line the channels, and about every 15 inches holes called sponge pockets are dug out and filled with straw to help water percolate down instead of run off.

But there’s more going on than just capturing water and holding soil in place. The layers of juniper clippings provide homes for spiders and other bugs, which also become part of the food chain.

“It does jumpstart biology,” said Jim Brooks of Soilutions. “It’s healing now… It will become more stable with time.”

The Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District brought in Brooks, an expert in permaculture and soil restoration, to train the volunteers who have been working in the 560-acre open space since November. The two-acre demonstration project is funded through a one-year $7,600 dollar grant from the New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Commission.

Soil districts have their roots in the Dust Bowl of the 1930s when drought and poor tilling practices turned farmers’ fields into giant dust storms. The districts are charged with protecting and restoring watersheds and are a rare government agency that can work directly with private landowners on projects.

Additional information on the district and its projects is available from the website

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