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Rio Grande Canalization Project - Project Background

Project Restoration Sites | Project Documentation

In 1999, the IBWC began a public scoping and consultation process to develop alternatives for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on river management of the Rio Grande Canalization Flood Control Project (RGCP), in the 105-mile project area from American Diversion Dam in El Paso, TX up to Percha Dam near Arrey, NM. In 2001, an Alternatives Formulation Report was issued, and in 2003 Reformulation of River Management Alternatives Report was issued, leading to the release of the Draft EIS in December 2003 for public comment. The Final EIS was issued in July 2004, with a Record of Decision (ROD) expected in August 2004. August 3, 2004 Governor Richardson, Senators Bingamon and Domenici, and stakeholders requested a delay in signing the ROD in order to address concerns of stakeholders. The Rio Grande Canalization Project Collaborative revisited aspects of the EIS, biological assessments, stakeholder concerns, and technical assessments.

The RGCP EIS evaluated four long-term River Management Alternatives: a) No Action, b) Flood Control Improvement, c) Integrated Land Management, and d) Targeted River Restoration. The goals were to accomplish flood control, water delivery, and operation and maintenance activities in a manner that would enhance or restore the river ecosystem. Following an 8-year consultation process with stakeholders, the IBWC selected the Integrated Land management Alternative and the RGCP ROD was finally signed by IBWC Commissioner Ruth on June 9, 2009, committing IBWC to a 10-year implementation of the Integrated Land Management Alternative as well as 30 conceptual river restoration sites developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The total cost was estimated at just over $5 million and includes projects throughout the 105-mile project area.

The Integrated Land Management Alternative addressed the following issues:

  • Continued RGCP Mission – water delivery and flood control
  • Water use and Environmental Water Transactions – estimates in water use and depletions as result of restoration sites
  • Maintaining Farmland in production- nearly all measures implemented on USIBWC property; cooperative agreements with private landowners strictly voluntary
  • Environmental Improvements – balance mission and improve the environmental quality of the river as well as multiple use of project (hike and bike trails, horse trails, boating)
  • ESA Liability – regulatory assurances to EBID and IBWC for federal and state endangered Southwestern Willow flycatcher(SWWF); Biological Assessment; Section 7 Consultations
  • Channel Maintenance – update the river management plan; IBWC establish a data collection and evaluation program for channel maintenance; update and evaluate river cross section data and FLO-2D model (4-5 year cycles); in channel enhancements at 3 arroyos (Yeso, Placitas, Angostura) and one inset floodplain (Yeso) 
  • Floodway Vegetation Management – restore 553 acres in the floodplain; mowing minimized at these sites; three (3) “no-mow” zones became permanent; grazing in floodplain phased out; active salt cedar and russian thistle control and removal

The ROD set a 10-year implementation period where the first Phase (Years 1 to 5) included studies, pilot projects, and the creation of an environmental water rights transfer framework, and the second Phase (Years 6-10) completed implementation of the remaining restoration sites. The ROD also set to phase our grazing leases along the river, alter mowing practices on almost 2,000 acres of floodplain, and restore native habitats at 30 restoration sites. Adaptive Management will guide the implementation of environmental measures.

Phase I of the ROD implementation included work on:

  • 5 pilot projects implemented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under an Interagency Agreement,
  • Water Rights Safeguards, which is a Public-Private partnership with USFWS, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and USIBWC,
  • Biological Assessment and Section 7 consultation on endangered species possibly affected, and
  • Site Specific Restoration Plans, including Section 106 cultural resource clearance, collection of soils and groundwater data, and SWWF and Yellow-billed cuckoo baseline surveys.

Project Restoration Sites | Project Documentation