Post-fire debris in acequias. Photo by Paula Garcia
BY SAGE FAULKNER
On Saturday, Feb. 25 those interested in the health of the Rio Chama and San Juan-Chama watersheds are invited to gather near Abiquiu, at Ghost Ranch, for the 8th Annual Rio Chama Congreso. The event will start at 9:00 a.m. with registration and refreshments provided by Rio Grande Restoration.
Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, Paula Garcia, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s event.
“The biggest challenge facing our communities is trying to rebuild while also preparing for an uncertain future. There is no existing framework for restoring a large landscape so we need to create one,” Ms Garcia will speak to the mountain of challenges facing both the acequia communities and the communities as a whole after the devastating Hermit’s Peak/Calf’s Canyon fires of 2022.
“Even though this started with a controlled burn, a megafire like this can happen where our forests are thirsty and overcrowded, which is virtually everywhere. We need to act with urgency to protect what we can, while we can. But also, we don’t have control over these overwhelming forces of nature, so we need to learn to live in a different landscape,” Garcia said.
Caleb Stotts, Executive Director of Chama Peak Land Alliance and member of the 8th Rio Chama Congreso planning committee feels like the lessons from Ms. Garcia are going to be important for the Rio Chama watershed. “I think this event is one we all need to attend and learn from. Watersheds in our region supply water for so many local users and communities, but also many downstream users. The San Juan-Chama Project supplies about 75% of Albuquerque’s drinking water and about 50% of Santa Fe’s drinking water, but these watersheds are at risk of severe wildfire and we are concerned about the kind of post-fire effects that we are hearing about in places like the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire footprint.”
In addition to hearing about impacts from last years’ devastating wildfires, Congreso attendees will hear from Santa Clara Pueblo and lessons learned after more than a decade of post-fire recovery efforts. Congreso attendees will hear an annual Water and Fire outlook, and learn about the risk of severe wildfire in the Rio Chama region and collaborative efforts to try and alleviate these threats.
Other key Congreso events:
On Feb. 24 two optional field trips will occur, and attendance at both the field trips and the event are free, although you must register. The City of Las Vegas Utility Department and US Bureau of Reclamation will be leading a half-day tour to explain the impacts of wildfire to the Las Vegas water treatment facilities, including a tour up the Gallina Canyon to see first-hand the Hermits Peak Fire impacts and challenges that the City is facing to provide municipal water supplies.
Also on Feb. 24, Ghost Ranch and partners will host a field trip to examine current conditions and potential solutions for addressing soil erosion, riparian habitat, and river health in the Arroyo del Yeso, the stream channel that runs through the Ranch. For registration to the Rio Chama Congreso and the field trip, please go to the http://www.sanjuanchama.org website and click on the RSVP button. Be sure and follow San Juan – Chama Watershed Partnership on Facebook for the most current updates on the Rio Chama Congreso.
Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, Paula Garcia, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s event. Courtesy photo