Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership: Years-long effort aims to balance health, use of #water — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Current projects

WEP’s work to leverage the knowledge it has accumulated is reflected in the organization’s two ongoing stream enhancement projects.

[Al] Pfister explained that stream enhancement involves “enhancing channel stability [and] doing some reworking of the river so that you have a low stream channel instead of flat stream bed.”

WEP’s current stream enhancement projects focus on enhancements to the San Juan River both near the proposed Yamaguchi Park South and upstream from Pagosa for 2.5 miles from near Bob’s LP. Pfister stated that both of these projects build off of prior work undertaken by the Town of Pagosa Springs and its partners to enhance the section of the San Juan River that flows through downtown Pagosa.

Yamaguchi South Planning Project site layout via the City of Pagosa Springs.

Yamaguchi South project

The planned stream enhancements in Yamaguchi Park South involve both modifications to the river itself and enhancements to the recreational resources along its banks. Pfister explained that, in terms of river modifications, “There’s going to be one whitewater feature in there, but then also enhancing the stream morphology. Pfister stated that these changes are aimed at providing healthier fish habitat and promoting the health of the riparian corridor for all its users, including birds, mammals and insects. He also suggested that the stream modifications required for conservation synergize with the needs of recreational users by promoting healthy fish populations for fisher people. They also provide deep stream channels and shallow bank pools that benefit boating and riverside recreation. On the banks, the project will involve the creation of a new boat put in and take out in Yamaguchi Park South to replace the current put in at the south end of Yamaguchi Park.

Pfister commented that this will improve “access for people so there’s not the conflict that currently exists down there at the end of Yamaguchi Park now.”

Pfister elaborated, saying, “The county and town both use that as a location to fill their water trucks. So … it can create some challenges.”

Pfister explained that the new boat take out will include a gravel road to the new take out location, in contrast to the dirt road currently used to access the take out, and a larger area for taking out and launch- ing boats. Pfister said that the goal was “to have more of a permanent thing, whereas now it’s a dirt road, and having the put in or take out such that it doesn’t have negative impacts on the stream morphology/hydrology.”

Pagosa gateway project

WEP’s second major stream enhancement project is the Pagosa gateway project, which involves enhancements to the San Juan River for approximately 2.5 miles north of Bob’s LP. This project will involve similar stream improvements to the Yamaguchi South project as well as the removal of several car bodies that are currently deposited in the river upstream from Pagosa. Pfister highlighted that the removal of these car bodies is “a big issue as far as river recreationists are concerned, and it’s not healthy for the river.”

Both the Pagosa gateway and South Yamaguchi projects are await- ing the completion of final steps, including pieces of grant funding and private landowner permissions. However, Pfister expressed optimism that both projects would begin to break ground in the “next couple years.”

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