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Bosque Restoration Work Planned

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The Corrales Village Council is scheduled to vote on Tuesday on a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to do habitat restoration work in the bosque.

Corps folks say it will improve flow of river water, but some in the village are skeptical whether it is necessary, and whether it will bring the touted benefits

If the council approves, work will go ahead. If no, it will halt the project, said Mayor Phil Gasteyer. The council meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Village Council Chambers, 4324 Corrales Road.

The proposed work is part of a wider long-term project the Corps has been undertaking in parts of the bosque along the Rio Grande between the northern boundary of Corrales and the northern boundary of Isleta Pueblo.

Project Manager Alicia Austin Johnson said the goal is to restore a connection between the river and the bosque by helping river water flow into bosque areas that were formerly floodplains. This would rejuvenate the soil, flush out debris and foster the growth of native plants and trees such as cottonwoods and willows.

Historically, the Rio Grande regularly overflowed its banks, sweeping away dead vegetation and allowing the plant-nurturing sediment it carried to settle in the bosque. Upstream dam building and other flood mitigation efforts carried out by the Corps in recent decades disrupted that natural process, Austin Johnson said.

It also hampered the normal reseeding patterns of native plants, making it easier for more drought tolerant non-native species, such as Russian olive and salt cedar, to proliferate.

Without the natural flooding, the non-native plants and dead vegetation have clogged sections of the bosque, presenting a fire risk, she said.

Plans the Corps has proposed for two sections of the Corrales Bosque Preserve, covering a total of between 100 to 150 acres include:

  • digging out swales or depressions and planting coyote willows to be migration stopover habitat for Southwestern willow flycatchers;
  • carving away a section of Rio Grande bank to encourage water to flow into the bosque when river flow is high;
  • improving recreational opportunities, such as boat access near the Alameda Bridge;
  • replanting species of native plants throughout the project areas.

Congress has appropriated $19 million for design and construction of the project. If approved, the Corps hopes to award a construction contract by September. The Corps would oversee the work.

Responsibility for the ongoing maintenance would be shared between the village of Corrales and the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, said Ondrea Hummel, lead ecologist for the project.

The Corps has for several years worked closely with village staff and the Bosque Advisory Commission, which advises the mayor and council on bosque matters, on the overall concept. Since last fall, the Corps has met regularly with groups of village residents to discuss the design. The plan the council will consider on Tuesday will reflect their input, Hummel said.

“We’re not trying to push anything on them. It’s whatever they want to do,” she added.

Longtime Corrales resident Jim Findley said the village designated the Corrales section of the bosque as a preserve to limit human interference; for example overnight camping and motorized vehicles are prohibited.

“The feeling of folks in the village is that it (the bosque) should be kept as unaltered as possible, including the vegetation,” Findley said.

He’s not convinced that the project would bring long-term improvements.

David Worledge, chairman of the Corrales Bosque Advisory Commission, said he would like to know more, such as how often river levels would be high enough for water to flow to benefit the bosque.

He supports replanting native species in areas where habitat is poor but is concerned about removing vegetation.

“We basically don’t want any carte blanche for thinning,” Worledge said.

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