Restoring Las Huertas Creek
Las Huertas Creek is critical to groundwater recharge in Placitas. However, for that recharge to occur, the riparian environment along the stream channel must be healthy. While there are some healthy riparian areas along Las Huertas, there are long stretches of deep channel cutting, the result of decades of over-grazing and diversions of creek flows from their historical riparian channel. An eroded stream channel with no vegetation means that precious storm-water surges shoot down the creek so that little or no recharge occurs.
A Placitas landowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, spent years trying to slow down this erosion with hand-built stone structures. Last year she was awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Partners, for riparian restoration.
Bill Zeedyk, a retired U.S. Forest Service hydrologist and acclaimed stream and riparian restoration expert, developed a plan based on comprehensive fluvial geomorphology studies to determine the most effective way of recreating a healthy riparian environment in this section of the Las Huertas valley. Zeedyk determined the stream flow must be directed to meander in order to slow down the flow of both spring runoff and storm surges.
The first phase of riparian habitat restoration along the upper channel portion of Las Huertas Creek was completed in late January. The work involved heavy equipment to create a large boulder-and-rubble plug that diverts the Las Huertas from a deeply cut, severely eroded stream channel back into its original channel. This plug functions both to divert the stream to the old channel and to slow the water flow by creating a ponding area behind the plug that will raise the water table and provide a wetter environment for riparian vegetation that will be planted as part of the ongoing multiyear restoration effort.
Besides the heavy-equipment work, the landowner and her son created hand-built structures that will induce meandering of the stream channel, seeded and mulched stream banks, and terracing a new “meadow” created when earth and nonriparian species were removed to build the plug.
In March, to forever protect the fragile stream side environment from development and insure perpetual preservation of the Anasazi archeological sites on the property, the landowner granted the Archeological Conservancy a conservation easement on fourteen-plus acres of her property in March. The Archeological Conservancy owns land on the north side of Las Huertas Creek.
As part of the preservation partnership, the second part of the restoration project will begin October 4 on land owned by the Archeological Conservancy. It will involve a second channel realignment that will not only restore riparian habitat but also create new habitat. In addition it will significantly reduce downstream sedimentation and protect stream side archeological sites that could be decimated by future flooding.
By diverting the stream away from the badly eroding channel into more than two hundred feet of the original meander pattern, the energy of the flowing water will be significantly slowed so it percolates to the water table rather than carrying large sediment loads rapidly downstream toward the Rio Grande.
On October 9, the Las Placitas Association will sponsor a hands-on stream-restoration workshop, which will focus on creating more hand-built erosion control structures on this section of Las Huertas Creek. Volunteers will not only have the opportunity to participate in the restoration but they can observe the construction of the plug that will divert the stream into a channel in which water has not flowed for decades.
Workshop volunteers are invited to meet at the parking lot of the Placitas Mercantile at 9:00 a.m., Saturday, October 9. The formal workshop will proceed until noon, though participants are invited to bring lunch and continue work into the afternoon. Please dress comfortably and wear sturdy shoes, as the terrain is rocky. Bring gloves, a hat, sunscreen, and water.
Please call Reid Bandeen, Las Huertas Watershed Project coordinator, at 867-5477 with any questions you may have.
BLM working on environmental assessment for pipeline expansion
A proposed pipeline for natural-gas liquids remains under study by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The BLM technical staff is working on an environmental assessment for the Wyoming-to-New Mexico project planned by Mid-America Pipeline Co., according to BLM public affairs officer Danita Burns. The question of whether the assessment will trigger a more complex environmental impact statement remains unresolved, she said.
Requiring an EIS was among suggestions Placitas residents made during a public meeting and in subsequent written comments to the BLM. The results of the BLM analysis are scheduled for release in May 2005.
MAPL proposes to increase the capacity of the 840-mile pipeline system by building parallel segments totaling 202 miles at twelve locations. The Placitas segment begins at a pumping station near San Ysidro and runs twenty-two and a half miles to connect with existing pipe on the east side of the Placitas Open Space.
MAPL already operates three pipelines within the fifty-foot corridor through Placitas. Two of those carry natural-gas liquids, a by-product of natural-gas production.
Water-management workshop targets land development
—New Mexico Rural Water Association
On Thursday, October 7, the New Mexico Rural Water Association will host an information and training workshop on the development of land and the growth of rural water and wastewater systems in the state.
Population in the Land of Enchantment is growing and people need places to live. If your water system has not made decisions on land-development proposals or been affected by an existing subdivision, chances are they will soon. Policies for new connections must reflect the financial cost and general impact, in both the short and long term, of adding water and sewer users to water systems.
This session will look at questions such as who the developers answer to, short- and long-term policies for adding new connections, how to calculate fees that cover connection and impact costs, how to calculate the impact on a community, and how to work effectively with government agencies and regulations.
Presentations will be made by Brian Wilson, formerly of the Office of the State Engineer and author of forty-year water planning and subdivision review guidance; Ken Hughes, department of finance and administration; Anita Miller, a land- and water-use attorney; and Tracy Svanda, board-training specialist.
Representatives of mutual domestic associations, water and sanitation districts; private cooperatives or corporations; counties and municipalities; water boards, council and planning commission members; and interested citizens from any type of utility will benefit from this workshop.
The meeting will be held at Angelina's Restaurant, 1226 N. Railroad in Española, from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The session is free and lunch will be included. Please register by Monday, October 4, by calling Tracy Svanda at (800) 819-9893 or (505) 884-1031.
For more information on this and other programs of NMRWA, please call or stop by our Albuquerque office at 3413 Carlisle Boulevard NE. NMRWA is a nonprofit, member-based technical-assistance and training organization.
County approves $16 billion Intel bond deal
Barely five weeks after going public, Sandoval County commissioners approved the sale of up to $16 billion in industrial revenue bonds for computer-chip maker Intel Corporation.
That was too fast for critics, who complained the computer giant came out of secret negotiations with too generous tax breaks and too few environmental controls. But the timing seemed right for Intel employees and supporters and for the county, which next month stands to receive nearly $81 million in lieu of taxes and possibly $14 million more later.
On September 16 commissioners voted four to zero, with commissioner Bill Sapien absent, to approve the bond sale scheduled to close October 26. As is typical with industrial bonds, the county lends its name to the bonds and grants tax breaks but is not liable for their repayment, county bond counsel Tommy Hughes said.
“On October 27, if they don't spend a dime, Intel owes Sandoval County $80.75 million,” Hughes said. That number could rise to as much as $94 million if the bonds sell out.
Debate over the bonds again centered on Intel neighbors' concerns about chemicals in plant air emissions and whether the county lost more by taking bond-funded improvements off the tax rolls for thirty years.
“There's little evidence tax incentives like these justify the costs,” said Kelly O'Donnell, a Corrales resident and research director of New Mexico Voices for Children. Rosy economic projections don't consider the effect of air emissions has on property values downwind in Corrales, she added.
Over the course of three public meetings, commissioners also heard from Intel boosters, including business owners, nonprofit beneficiaries of donations and volunteers, several of Intel's fifty-three hundred employees and state Economic Development secretary Rick Homans.
“The decision on the table tonight is, “Do we want them to stay here?”' Homans said. “If they can't compete from here, they'll compete from somewhere else.”
Commissioners also received two financial reports, one projecting the effects of Intel spending $16 billion over fifteen years, and the second analyzing actual spending in 2001 and 2002. Intel estimated it would spend 30 percent of the bond money in New Mexico, which consultant KPMG LLC projected would create the equivalent of about three thousand jobs a year and boost state revenue by $10 million annually.
The report by the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that Sandoval County garnered about 8 percent of $170 million Intel spent in New Mexico during 2001 and 2002 combined and a third of its $1 billion payroll. The bulk of the spending is in Bernalillo County, where most of the employees reside.
At its September 2 meeting, the commission corrected a potential defect in the Intel deal by retroactively appointing chairman Daymon Ely and commissioner Jack Thomas to negotiate on behalf of the county. A complaint to the Attorney General's office alleged a violation of the Open Meetings Act by appointing Ely and Thomas without a public vote early this year.
Ely also dismissed concerns about any conflict between the secret negotiations with Intel and his service on the Corrales Air Quality Task Force. The negotiations began near the end of the two-year task force look at Intel plant emissions, he said.
Ely told the Signpost he acted as an honest broker and would have pressed for more environmental controls had the task force found hard evidence of health problems. Ely said he favors spending at least some of the windfall from the bond deal on reducing air pollution by improving public transportation.
Restoring the bosque following treatment of nonnatives
With all the recent press, few would question the need to remove non-native species along the banks of the Rio Grande and the adjacent riparian areas. Russian olive and salt cedar have a bad reputation along most Southwest water systems due to their aggressive growth rates and their ability to use so much available water. Treatment within the [Coronado Soil and Water Conservation] District boundaries this year included 22 acres of mechanical removal in the Town of Bernalillo, and close to 700 acres that were aerially sprayed last September along the Galisteo drainage on Santo Domingo Pueblo. Funding for these projects came from the state legislature through the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts.
The question now is, what restoration efforts need to take place to improve aesthetics and wildlife habitat, as well as protect the soil from erosion? The simplest response would be to plant native trees. This is a good start since Rio Grande cottonwood, New Mexico olive, and Coyote willow naturally occur on many riparian sites. Other shrubs and grasses could follow to allow for a variety of layers or heights of vegetation.
The key to successful restoration is to develop a plan that addresses long term land use objectives, inventories soil quality and water availability, and recognizes climatic conditions common to the area. For example, is the area used primarily for recreation or wildlife habitat? Do cattle currently graze the site? What is the depth to groundwater? Is supplemental irrigation water available to establish the plants? Would it be possible to broadcast native grass seed in anticipation of summer rains? And what if there are no summer rains?
Answers to these questions will lead to a comprehensive and holistic treatment for the bosque. With legislative interest and support for bosque restoration projects and conservation partners excited about the work, the Coronado SWCD looks forward to addressing restoration of the Rio Grande bosque.
This article was originally published in the Coronado News, the quarterly newsletter of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District.
State to help rural communities protect drinking water
The New Mexico Rural Water Association Source Water Protection Program will aid rural communities served by public water systems in protecting their drinking water. Similar to the Wellhead Protection Program, the SWPP also includes steps to create a protection plan for drinking-water sources.
Keith Candelaria has been hired as a source-water specialist. A recent graduate of Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in environmental earth science, Candelaria grew up in the pueblos of San Felipe and Jemez, where he learned that water plays a critical role in his communities. He will make regular visits to communities and assist in creating source-water-protection plans by coordinating and facilitating meetings. He will also provide outreach material to educate community members about the importance of protecting their drinking water.
NMRWA is a nonprofit membership-based organization providing assistance and training support to small water systems throughout the state. For more information about Source Water Protection and other programs, please contact NMRWA at their office at 3413 Carlisle Boulevard NE in Albuquerque or call them at (800) 819-9893.