Santa Fe River Is Not A River Without Water
Published February 19 in the Santa Fe New Mexican
On February 29, Santa Fe City Council voted unanimously to support up to 1000 Acre-Feet/year to flow in the Santa Fe River. The City of Santa Fe has reached a major milestone in its 400 year history - water once again in the River!
Having served on the River Commission for two terms, John Buchser happily accepted the new title 'river angel' from councilor Bushee.
On Wednesday, February 29, at 7pm, the Santa Fe City Council is considering a river flow ordinance. This law would allow year-round flow past our reservoirs into the Santa Fe River. The River through Santa Fe is why our City has existed 400 years. A river does not exist as a living river without water. You can do two things to show support for water in the river.
- Write or call your councilors and let them know you support flow in the river, and why. The e-mail and phone number for each councilor is shown at the end of this webpage.
- Come to the council meeting on the last day of February and tell the council in person why you support flow in the river.
The ultimate measure of a living river is a river that supports fish. Fish eat bugs, many of them invertebrates that live on the bottom of the river, under and around rocks. These little bugs are the first biologically quantifiable measure demonstrating we are building towards a living river. Some particularly sturdy bugs can survive long dry spells. For survival of the average bug, survival requires by a wet river channel. To meet this requirement, the river flow ordinance allows a very small flow year-round. This year-round flow will tend to only water the upper stretches of the river corridor, but it will also allow better plant growth along the entire corridor, which reduces erosion, improves water quality, and creates a natural water filtering and cleaning process that over the last few centuries we have allowed to die.
A key feature of most rivers is variability of flow, with much higher flow in the spring and early summer as the snow melts. The river flow ordinance attempts to mimic this natural occurrence by allowing river flow to peak at twice, once earlier in the spring and again during early summer. To accommodate the variability of snow pack, which is a major contribution to the total amount of water provided by our watershed, every spring the snow pack is evaluated, and the total annual flow is adjusted to accommodate the projected runoff based on the depth and water content of the snow.
The River brings a measure of the wilderness into the heart of our City. Coyotes, skunks, raccoons, roadrunners, mountain lions, and bears use the river channel as a corridor to get into our City – sometimes to the surprise of folks who leave food out for their pets or who have fruit on their trees. But generally, the opportunity to see one of these fine creatures in the middle of our town is that of joy – the knowledge that the wild still exists.
I am amazed at how many folks stop while crossing the river, and pause to watch the water we have been fortunate to have in the river through downtown, thanks to the vision of Mayor Coss and the support of the Council. It is good for my soul to see kids fishing while their parents sit on the bank. The river corridor provides a small escape from the City’s buzz when there is not water, and when there is water, it provides a refuge and solace.
Much of the river corridor is open for all to use and to see. The newly completed trail from Camino Alire to Frenchy’s Field is a fine addition to the vision of a trail all the way to 599. The channel restoration along this section of river is also very promising. Rivers should slow storm flow and store the water, not channel it quickly away.
I applaud the Mayor’s persistence and the River Commission’s work over the last few years, working with City staff to create a set of documents to reflect the vision of flow for a living river. Two previous river commissions over the last few decades did not have a vision of year-round flow. The Council has approved some flow in the river each of the last several years.
The vision is that of water in the river year-round. Yes, the Council should have the opportunity to review how the river is doing every year. But the norm should be a well-defined process that allows some of the water from the mountains to flow down the river and through our fine City. I believe the ordinance being considered at a public hearing on February 29 deserves our support.
Ph: (505) 955-6818
Ph: (505) 690-3016
Ph: (505) 955-6815
Ph: (505) 955-6816
Ph: (505) 955-6814
Matthew E. Ortiz
Ph: (505) 955-6817
Ph: (505) 955-6811
Cell: (505) 795-1052