Silvery Minnow Channel and Riparian Habitat Enhancement Project
The Open Space Division (OSD) is gearing up for a major habitat restoration project within the bosque located southwest of the Paseo del Norte Bridge. The main goal of this project is to provide important habitat for the federally endangered Rio Grande Silvery Minnow by creating a low-velocity, flow-through channel (ephemeral channel) during higher river flows. The ephemeral channel is intended to provide egg retention and nursery habitat for the minnow. The Open Space “Bosque Crew” will first remove all the exotic non-native vegetation that currently dominates the site, and then the crew will begin excavating the 5-acre ephemeral channel. After the ephemeral channel is created, Open Space staff will use volunteers from numerous local school groups to assist with re-establishing native riparian vegetation within and along the edges of the channel to increase the diversity of the riparian (riverside) ecosystem.
In addition to improving minnow habitat, the secondary goal of the project is to improve riparian habitat for another federally endangered species – the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. This will be done by planting cottonwood, willow poles, and native shrubs throughout a 40-acre section of the bosque around the created channel. The flycatcher is a neotropical migratory songbird that breeds in dense riparian habitat that is typically dominated with native willows. Open Space recently completed a flycatcher habitat restoration project located just south of the La Orilla drain. Open Space created 5-acres of moist soil swales and planted native willows, cottonwoods, and other moist soil riparian shrubs to provide breeding habitat for the flycatchers.
All funding for these projects was provided by the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program. US Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) funding is part of the San Juan Chama Drinking Water Project-Environmental Mitigation. The funding was provided through the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program (a group of local agencies) to conduct habitat restoration for endangered species. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) is responsible for implementing the mitigation measures for the USBR, and used the funds to have Open Space implement the La Orilla and Paseo del Norte projects. SWCA Environmental Consultants and HDR Engineering assisted with project design, mapping (GIS), field staking features, and environmental monitoring.
Open Space Bosque/maintenance crew (equipment operators) on the two projects include: Chris Tavasci, Richard Rodriguez, Steve Aragon, Joseph Hidalgo, Tom Moya, Cindo Griego, Benito Gonzales, Raymond Lente, Edwin Zamora and Ray Gomez, who all worked to create habitat features, clear the non-native vegetation, maintain levee roads, and drill holes for pole planting. Many thanks also to Bill Pentler, who coordinates and leads school groups and volunteer groups to do plantings, and to Erik Zsmelye for mapping, GIS work, harvesting plants, and planting. The State Forestry Inmate Work Camp also assisted with the La Orilla project harvesting plants, plantings, and removing Jetty Jacks.