A collaboration among The Nature Conservancy, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the Village of Corrales, the City of Rio Rancho and the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA) is expected to produce a 10-acre wetlands at the mouth of the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel.

“We hope to break ground in early summer when funding materializes,” Conservancy District Executive Director Mike Hamman told Corrales Comment February 27. “There is still a funding gap for earth-moving that still needs to be addressed.” Hamman said the final plan is expected to be finished next month after additional public outreach. SSCAFCA Executive Director Chuck Thomas was a little less optimistic about a start date. “The project will start construction in the fall,” he said March 1.

During a monsoon rain, stormwater drained from a wide area west of the escarpment above Corrales would be redirected to a vegetated area between the river and the Corrales Road bridge over the Jones Channel. And on a more regular basis, treated effluent from Rio Rancho’s sewage treatment plant near the Montoyas Arroyo also would flow into the proposed wetlands.

Public input for the proposal was gained during Zoom sessions February 2, 3 and 4. The Nature Conservancy’s description of the project notes that the Jones Channel carries more than 4.4 million gallons of stormwater annually to the river. And treated sewage from Rio Rancho also enters the river just south of the channel at quantities ranging from four to five million gallons daily.

“By utilizing the permanent flow of water, we can re-contour the bank elevation and create secondary channels to create an expanded wet area to increase wildlife, fish and bird habitat,” according to the proposal. The Nature Conservancy web page about the Harvey Jones Channel Improvement Project states these goals:
• to reconnect bosque vegetation to groundwater, lowering the bench elevation;
• to improve water quality as a finishing station to reduce stormwater pollution to the Rio Grande;
• to enhance bird, fish and other wildlife habitat;
• to reduce stagnant water and mosquito issues from stormwater impoundment;
• to illustrate the benefits of large-scale green stormwater infrastructure; and
• to demonstrate inter-agency coordination on a public-private partnership project.

The Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission has considered such a project, at least conceptually, for many years. Elsewhere in the preserve, projects have already been implemented to excavate away the river bank so that water flows, or at least seeps, into the riparian forest. The habitat plan was completed in 2010 after years of work. (See Corrales Comment’s nine-part series of articles starting Vol.XXVIII, No.7, May 23, 2009, “Bosque Preserve Habitat Plan Now Available”) In 2010, projects similar to what is being proposed now were implemented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as elements of a “bosque restoration” effort.

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