Lower Blanco River restoration efforts

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Here’s an update on restoration efforts along the Lower Rio Blanco River, from Jim McQuiggin writing for the Pagosa Sun. From the article:

At a meeting scheduled April 28 from 7-9 p.m. in the south conference room of the Pagosa Springs Community Center, project supporters will present plans for further restoration of the river. According to Dave McDonough of the Lower Blanco Property Owners Association (LBPOA), there are 26 property owners who would be affected by the project. “Raising the money is not an issue,” McDonough said. “We’ve done that. We need the property owners to engage with us. Ultimately, we need their permission to work in their back yards.”

When the Chama river diversion was opened in 1971, removing about 70 percent of the Blanco’s water to be sent to New Mexico, portions of the Lower Blanco were impacted, with diminished fish and wildlife habitats as well as changing the overall dynamics of the river.

With the third phase of the project completed last year, about five miles of the total nine miles of the project have been finished. Reaction to improvements on the river so far completed have been unanimously positive…

Although expanded fish habitat is a primary goal of the project, the restoration boasts several other merits from slowing down the river through the narrowing and deepening of channels, essentially making the most of available water resources that were depleted by the Chama diversion. The project also includes the construction of flood plains that can protect the integrity of river banks as well as mitigate flood issues with private properties. “The flood plains will help keep the water off of pastures and properties and put it back into the river,” said McDonough. “Ultimately, what this project does is keep more water in the river. It creates a healthier watershed, healthier riparian environments, vegetation, and fish habitats.”

The LBPOA also reports that improvements on the river have not only provided safer environments for fish — along with increased numbers of fish — but also increased numbers of turtles, crayfish and birds. Furthermore, wells monitored along improved portions of the river have not only shown increased levels but water collected from those wells has been reported to be clearer and cleaner.

With permitting from the Colorado Department of Wildlife and the Army Corps of Engineers contingent on the project securing easements, McDonough hopes to contact property owners as soon as possible, either by meeting with them at the scheduled April 24 meeting or through phone or e-mail…

According to project engineer Chris Phillips of Riverbend Engineering, crews “Should start construction in late August, early September,” with the project taking about six weeks. Should construction be completed this summer, the LBPOA will begin the process of securing funding to begin the fifth and final phase of the project. That phase would include about 2.5 miles of the river.

Lower Blanco residents interested in the Lower Blanco river restoration project should contact Dave McDonough at 264-0596 for more information.

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