Water authority project aims to excavate, realign South Valley wastewater outfall site - Albuquerque Journal

Water authority project aims to excavate, realign South Valley wastewater outfall site

The water authority’s Southside Water Reclamation Plant treats 50 to 60 million gallons of wastewater every day, and the effluent is then returned to the Rio Grande via an outfall structure. The utility is planning a project to restore riverside habitat around the outfall. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The water authority is planning a project to restore riverside habitat where treated wastewater flows into the Rio Grande.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority’s Southside Water Reclamation Plant treats about 50-60 million gallons of wastewater every day.

Effluent is returned to the river from an outfall structure at the South Valley plant on the Rio Grande’s east side.

Diane Agnew, the utility’s water rights program manager, said the project will excavate and realign the outfall area so it is better connected to the river.

The site is currently on a steep embankment that slopes down to the river.

“That means that, no matter what the flows are in the Rio Grande, this area won’t see the flooding that needs to happen in the spring for bosque health, and also for the Rio Grande silvery minnow,” Agnew said.

The project is designed to improve river water quality, and restore habitat for endangered fish and birds.

Water authority crews will plant cottonwoods in the habitat site.

A rendering of the proposed outfall restoration project at the Southside Water Reclamation Plant. The project aims to restore floodplain habitat for endangered species and build new trails for bosque access around the outfall structure. (Courtesy of Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority)

The team will also install rootwads – clusters of logs, roots and boulders – in the riverbank to create fish habitat and prevent streambed erosion.

New trails will be built around the outfall structure.

“This is a community that doesn’t have as much access to the bosque,” Agnew said. “We have trail systems that are fairly broken up in the area. This project has the objective of connecting those trail systems and making them more accessible to South Valley residents.”

The $4.7 million project is currently in the design phase and has received about $1 million in state capital outlay funding.

About $550,000 from the state Office of Natural Resources Trustee will help fund the project.

The utility is also seeking project grants from the state Environment Department and Water Trust Board.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2023.

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