By Michael Ritterhouse Staff writer
BY MICHAEL RITTERHO– USE
SANTA ROSA — Governor Susana Martinez announced more than $1 million in funding for the first five projects to be selected for funding under the 2014 River Stewards Initiative on Wednesday (Oct. 22). During the most recent legislative session, the Governor secured $2.5 million in funding for River Stewards, an important program designed to restore and protect New Mexico’s precious rivers and streams.
“In the face of unprecedented wildfires, flooding, and drought, it is more important than ever that we look after our rivers and watersheds to secure our water supply, protect our environment, and support local economies,” said Governor Martinez. “These projects will demonstrate how our communities can use River Stewards funds to improve and safeguard our critical water resources.”
River Stewards funds projects that improve surface water quality and river habitat statewide. The River Stewards Initiative is now in the process of awarding funds to projects that will clear vegetation in river areas, lower river bank lines, replant native species vegetation, revitalize wetlands, and install erosion control.
Red River received the largest grant, $337,000, to improve habitats along a section of the Red River through town.
Through the Red River project, the Town of Red River will improve stream habitat located in the heart of Red River. The project will add rock structures and pools in the creek and native vegetation on the banks. These features will provide for trout holding areas and feeding areas. The stream banks will also be modified so that anglers can easily obtain access the creek.
According to Town of Red River Grant Administrator Russell Church, the town has committed to build several handicapped access points for fishing and river viewing near the Red River Conference Center out their own funds and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and Trout Unlimited funds to voluntarily comply with a U.S. Forest Service request.
The Red River will be improved from the Bitter Creek confluence to the Pioneer Road/River Street bridge. The town has a special use permit with the U.S. Forest Service that overlaps with the Red River Ski Area bottom of copper lift to use much of the stretch as a park. The permit allows sidewalks which will help with the handicapped access.
Church said, “a couple of sections are on private property and they’re working with us.” They are enthusiastic too, the property owners were all part of 18 letters of support submitted with the grant application.
The Red River project is the last of three completed that the town put on hold in 2001. In 2006 the town transferred funds to the Young’s Ranch river restoration project and this year the town built the Red River Westside Fishing Park.
According to Church the process will take some time to get to where construction bids will be requested. He hopes to put the project out to bid in late summer of 2016. Church also said, “the Forest Service is very supportive, especially Jerry Mastel, district ranger for the Questa Ranger District.”
“The River Stewards Initiative will help restore rivers to their natural state and protect our precious water resources in New Mexico,” said Secretary Flynn. “The Governor has made it her priority to make sure our water conservation efforts focus on sustainability for the future.” During the 2014 Legislative Session, Governor Martinez secured $89 million for statewide water projects designed to improve municipal water systems, improve dams, restore watersheds, and restore river habitats, including the $2.5 million for the River Stewards Initiative. Cities, municipalities and conservation groups submitted river restoration project proposals earlier this year.