Even if the current monsoon season produces less rain than desired and little stormwater through the Harvey Jones Flood Control Channel, the wetland plantings at channel’s mouth in the Bosque Preserve are assured of irrigation. About five million gallons of treated sewage from Rio Rancho which had been poured directly into the river every day are now being diverted to meandering channels for the 10-acre wetlands project managed by The Nature Conservancy and the Southern Sandoval County Arroyo Flood Control Authority (SSCAFCA).
“In late February and early March, we planted about 30,000 native willows and about 130 cottonwood poles,” The Nature Conservancy’s Sarah Hurteau told Corrales Comment May 31. “During the upcoming monsoon season —hopefully we get rain!— the group we contracted with, Rio Grande Return, will seed the uplands with a mix of grasses and shrubs that are native to this area.”
A year from now, she said, another seed mix with more wildflowers and herbs and forbs will be included. “The first year seeding is focused on establishing ground cover and the second year seeding is focused on adding diversity to the site. The team will continue to monitor the establishment of the vegetation and make adjustments as needed.”
Major earthmoving and elimination of undesirable vegetation was largely complete before this spring, but such work was discontinued to minimize disruptions to birds. “There should not be any additional vegetation removal until the end of the breeding bird season,” she added. “At that time, there are a few invasive trees and shrubs that could use removal to keep the site focused on the return of the native trees and plants.”
Hurteau said The Nature Conservancy continues to seek funds for future seedings.The project is 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. (See Corrales Comment Vol. XXXX No.2 March 6, 2021 Stormwater, Treated Sewage Would be Used for Bosque.”)
During a monsoon rain, stormwater drained from a wide area west of the escarpment above Corrales will 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.
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.