2013 Rio Grande Riparian Improvement Project:

This riparian improvement project was funded through grants from Xcel Energy, New Belgium Brewing Company, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District. Funding was used to hire a crew of 8 young adults from the Southwest Conservation Corps to complete revegetation efforts on riparian areas just north of Alamosa. In June 2014, the crew made and planted over 1,000 willow bundles on the project site. These willows will sprout roots and grow into bushes along the edge of the water, resulting in increased shade, stabilized streambanks, and improved quality of riparian habitat.

Riparian Restoration and Streambank Stabilization Program


Lower Rio Grande Study

Funded through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a grant from Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund, the Lower Rio Grande Study analyzed the reach of the Rio Grande between the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and the State Line, a portion not included in the RGHRP 2001 Study. Designated as the Rio Grande Natural Area (RGNA) by Congress in 2006, this 33-mile reach of the Rio Grande is home to spectacular wildlife, cultural, and historical resources. As part of the RGNA designation, a commission of 9 volunteer stakeholders was assembled to assist private landowners and the BLM in developing a management plan for the RGNA. While some areas of concern were already documented, the entire reach had not been inventoried. The study included outreach to landowners, floating the entire reach, targeted surveying, and recording data on streambank stability, riparian habitat condition, geomorphology, in-stream structures, aquatic habitat, and sediment transport. In the RGNA exists an area of special interest that was recently designated as critical habitat for the endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher. This study resulted in a final report that will aid in developing and prioritizing restoration projects along the study reach.

The implementation of the Lower Rio Grande Study was split into two phases. In Phase 1, funded partially by the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund in 2013, project partners documented and assessed the project area, as described above. Data was compiled and summarized in preparation for Phase 2 of the project. Phase 1 was completed in the fall of 2014. In Phase 2, project partners used the inventory of data from Phase 1 to complete an analysis of the conditions of subreaches, and develop and prioritize restoration projects. The final report is a critical piece of the RGNA planning effort, as it provides in-depth baseline data for the commission. The report is also a guideline for the BLM and RGHRP to implement restoration projects in the reach; these projects will further improve the health and continuity of the Rio Grande by complementing work that has been completed upstream by the RGHRP in the 2001 Study reach.

Click HERE to see a map of the Lower Rio Grande Study project area.

2008 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 3: 
In 2008, the RGHRP received a CO NPS grant to complete work on five sites, which added up to approximately 9,000 feet of streambank in Alamosa County. In 2009, the RGHRP also received funding from Colorado Water Supply Reserve Account (CO WSRA).  Work on all five sites is now complete and monitoring is underway.
Project NameProject YearTotal Project Cost
2004 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 2
2004$525,000

2008 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 3 and

2012 Alamosa County Riparian Improvement Project

2008/2012$610,780
2009 Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative Project
2009$319,900
2009 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 4
2009-10$498,101
2010 Colorado Partnership Program Project
2010$274,000
Rio Grande Project © Cooperative with Southwest Conservation
Corps
2011$36,000
2013 Rio Grande Riparian Improvement Project
2013-14$23,000
Lower Rio Grande Study 2014-16$55,500

Monitoring Program

The success of the Program’s projects is monitored with the RGHRP Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP). Most recently updated in 2009, the SAP includes the use of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Steam Visual Assessment Protocol (SVAP2), a once-a-year bank location survey, twice-a-year Stream Visual Assessments, compliance monitoring, and photographic documentation of project sites. The data gathered from these site visits is processed, analyzed, and reported annually. From this monitoring, it is possible to determine if the streambanks remain stable and hence a reduction in sediment loading has occurred, as well as the improvement of riparian zones’ health and function. 


2004 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 2: In 2004, through partnerships with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), the RGHRP was able to complete a cost-share riparian stabilization project with funding from the Colorado Non-Point Source Program (CO NPS). The 2004 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 2, involved eighteen private landowners on approximately 8,300 feet of streambank on the Rio Grande in Rio Grande County, Colorado. Matching funds came from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), Colorado Habitat Improvement Program (CHIP), and the landowners. The RGHRP is working with the Colorado Measurable Results Program (MRP), which is funded through CO NPS and Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), to transition to long-term monitoring of Phase 2. 

Partnerships 

Total Project Costs

We partner with several other groups to further encourage participation and breadth of projects. In the past, partners have included the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) and the Southern Conservation Corps (SCC). An example project took place on the 4UR Ranch, near Creede, CO in October 2015, with the RGHRP partnering with RiGHT to bring an SCC crew to implement streambank stabilization through willow plantings. 


The principal program of the RGHRP is the Riparian Restoration and Streambank Stabilization Program. The 2001 Study identified sediment input as one of the primary causes of degradation to the Rio Grande. Sediment input stems from unstable and eroding banks caused by lateral movement of the stream channel resulting in loss of streambank stability, degradation of the riparian habitat, sedimentation in the channel, and the resultant deposition of the bedload materials downstream.  Such deposition also negatively affects the condition of the fisheries. Channel movement has resulted in deterioration of the riparian habitat and contributes woody debris to the system through the loss of large plant materials. The main environmental goals of the riparian stabilization projects are to improve natural stabilization of the streambank, improve the riparian and fish habitat, enhance the function of the floodplain, and increase the capacity of the river to transport sediment. 


A typical riparian stabilization project includes bank shaping and installation of streambank stabilization structures. Structures include willow bundles and clump plantings; rock structures, including “J” hooks, weirs, and rock barbs; and log structures, such as root wads and tree revetments. These structures move the flows away from the bank, thereby halting lateral movement of the stream channel and reducing sediment loading. This allows for revegetation in the riparian zones, reestablishing natural streambank stability. Grazing management and bioengineering enhance the riparian habitat, further stabilizing the streambank.

The RGHRP has worked with over sixty landowners and seven cost-share riparian stabilization projects on fifty different sites with over 4.8 million dollars raised in grant funding. This has allowed for 11 miles of streambank to be stabilized. Directly, these projects benefit the participating landowners, local water users, and downstream water users. Indirectly, local, state, and regional communities benefit from the enhanced water quality, river function, riparian condition, wetlands, and habitat. These benefits stem from increased land value, water availability and quality, tourism opportunities, and habitat potential. Details for each project may be found below: 


2009 Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative Project:
In 2009, the RGHRP received a grant from the NRCS sponsored by the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) program, which required non-federal funds match. After consideration, it was determined that a portion of the 2009 CO WSRA grant from Phase 3 of the 2008 Rio Grande Stabilization Project could be made available as match to the CO NPS and CCPI grant. The 2009 CCPI Project was completed in Rio Grande County and twelve sites on 10,000 feet of the river were treated. 

 

2009 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 4:
Phase 4 completed streambank stabilization and riparian restoration on 7 sites in Alamosa County. Contractors completed construction on the final site in Fall 2014. This project improved the function of the Rio Grande by reducing sediment loading through the restoration and stabilization of 2.3 miles of riverbank, the installation of rock barbs and root wads, and the planting of willow clumps. These efforts will result in improved water quality, reduced erosion, increased sediment transport capacity, higher quality of riparian areas and habitat, and proper functioning floodplains. 

In 2009, the RGHRP received a Colorado Non-Point Source Grant to fund the 2009 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project (Phase 4) in Alamosa County. In 2010, the RGHRP was awarded funds from the CO WSRA to serve as non-federal match. 










 Before, during, and after the 
2009 Rio Grande Riparian Stabilization Project – Phase 4

2010 Colorado Partnership Program Project:
In 2010, the RGHRP was awarded funds from the NRCS Colorado Partnership Program (CPP) to treat five sites totaling 4,500 feet of streambank in Rio Grande County. 

2011 Rio Grande Revegetation Project:
In 2010, the RGHRP was awarded funds from the 2010 Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund to enhance riparian revegetation on riparian restoration and streambank stabilization project sites. A portion of these funds was used to organize two volunteer efforts on three sites in Alamosa and Rio Grande Counties. A large revegetation event was organized with a crew from the Southwest Conservation Corps. This project utilized 80 volunteer hours and 640 SCC crew hours. In total, 1,900 feet of streambanks were revegetated with bare-root shrubs, trees, and willow bundles. Tree revetments were also installed. 

2012 Alamosa County Riparian Improvement Project:
In 2012, the RGHRP received grants from Xcel Energy and the Colorado State Forest Service to complete riparian revegetation and noxious weed removal on Phase 3 riparian areas in Alamosa County. In October 2012, a group of 51 volunteers from the Alamosa Boy Scouts planted 50 willow bundles on a river site owned by the City of Alamosa. Additionally, a crew of 9 young adults from the Southwest Conservation Corps was hired to apply compost and reseed areas with low vegetation cover and plant willows on streambanks. The crew spread 38 tons of compost, reseeded 7 acres of riparian areas, and planted 291 willow bundles. These efforts will improve the condition of habitat and vegetation cover on areas where riparian restoration was completed, however, the rate of revegetation has been slow. Noxious weed removal took place in 2013. Matching funds for this Project came from the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District and in-kind contributions came from local, state, and federal partners. The Project is an asset to the local community as it engaged member participation, employed young adults, supported businesses, and improved the condition of the streambanks, riparian vegetation, and wildlife habitat.