Pecos River at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge to be Restored with Grant from State of New Mexico

Pecos River at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge to be Restored with Grant from State of New Mexico

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, received a $518,500 grant to restore six miles of the Pecos River as it runs through Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Roswell. The grant was made possible by the 2007 River Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, a one time funding opportunity under Governor Bill Richardsons "Year of Water" agenda. A total of $2.35 million was awarded for river ecosystem health.

The grant will fund Phase II of a large Pecos River restoration effort at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge that includes removing tamarisk and floodplain levees, lowering floodplains, re-connecting historic river sections, and establishing native plants. Phase I will re-connect a channelized oxbow lake and improve roughly one and half miles of river habitat. Phase I is being constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation as part of their mitigation for Pecos River operations. The funding from New Mexicos River Ecosystem Initiative will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct Phase II, and address restoration on an additional six river miles.

"B ," said Paul Tashjian, hydrologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. "Q perennially flowing continuous with of the refuge."

The restoration project demonstrates the feasibility of various techniques used to restore the tamarisk-infested reaches of the Pecos River and the rivers ecosystem functions, such as flood and drought mitigation, fire reduction, recreation and maintaining biodiversity. The project will restore basic river functions; improve water quality; improve habitat for the Pecos bluntnose shiner; attract more birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish; remove 100 acres of invasive non-native plants; reduce flood risk for downstream properties; reduce fire risks; enhance recreational opportunities; leverage federal restoration dollars; increase refuge visitation which brings associated benefits to the local hospitality business.

"The NM Interstate Stream Commission, the state agency responsible for ensuring that inter-state water compacts are met, is a partner on the project with the duty of tracking the water budget," said Tashjian. "World Wildlife Fund has been instrumental in assisting with gaining public support for the project and will provide outreach assistance as the project is implemented. Additional support comes from Chaves County, Carlsbad Irrigation District and the Friends of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. We are hopeful that this project can demonstrate how river ecosystem improvement can be accomplished within the reality of a very limited water supply and interstate compact requirements.

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge has gained widespread fame for supporting one of the most diverse populations of dragonflies and damselflies in North America. The restoration project will benefit the over 90 Odonate species that occur at the refuge, including the continents largest and smallest dragonfly species. The life cycle of the insects requires water and wetlands including seeps and springs, brackish lakes, marshes, and the Pecos River with its old oxbows.

Historically the Middle Pecos River was a wide, sediment-laden, braided river with a diversity of habitats, ranging from low-velocity backwaters to swift main channel settings. These habitats were maintained by natural flooding, which moved sediments between the channel and the floodplain. This dynamic relationship sculpted a wide channel, moved sediment from the floodplain back into the channel, and formed new floodplains with channel sediment. The native biology of the Pecos took many life cycle cues from the hydrology and sediment mobility associated with an active floodplain.

Like many rivers within the Western United States, the Pecos Rivers historic functions have been disrupted in order to ensure water supply and safety within a feast or famine hydrologic regime. The construction of upstream reservoirs allowed greater control of natural upstream flows to meet agricultural and interstate compact obligations as well as provided flood protection for downstream communities. North of Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, many of the historic floodplain functions of the river remain intact. The riparian riparian
Definition of riparian habitat or riparian areas.

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community is diverse and rich in native biodiversity because of the active channel- floodplain interface. Here is some of the best habitat in eastern New Mexico for; native fish including the federally listed Pecos bluntnose shiner, rare migratory birds such as the yellow billed cuckoo, unique amphibians such as the Spiney Soft Shelled Turtle, and diverse native riparian plant communities. But this quality habitat is in the most likely portion of the Middle Pecos to go dry since the primary source of base flow is agricultural return flow. Perennial flows on the Pecos River begin at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. By restoring habitat at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, it can mirror habitat to the north in a portion of the river that is always wet.

Visit Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge at: to view photos of the area to be restored.