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Watershed Initiative

The geographic area being focused upon under this Initiative is the large watershed's northeastern extent, encompassing the Upper Main Stem, Torreon Wash and the northernmost portion of the Middle Main Stem subwatersheds.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Watershed Initiative (WI) program supports innovative watershed restoration approaches. Projects address the causes of degradation in this watershed by involving communities in the watershed in demonstration projects and workshops. The main strategies focus on decreased sedimentation and erosion in the treated sub-basins. Riparian and stream strategies include increasing desired vegetation, decreasing non-native and invasive species, and developing stable stream geometry. In upland areas, the strategies include increasing vegetation cover and enhancing infiltration of precipitation, resulting in decreased runoff.

An ultimate goal of these combined efforts is to teach the coming generations about techniques that can result in improved water quality, increased water quantity and agricultural yield, while reducing the overall impairment.

The workplan for the Watershed Initiative grant is broken down into tasks summarized below. More information about each task can be found by clicking on the Task.

Task 1 : Prioritization
This task utilized existing data sets, aerial photos, and Geographic Information System (GIS) software to assess, characterize and map areas of accelerated erosion, physical instability and vegetation anomalies within targeted portions of the watershed. Public input and data analysis has been used to produce updated watershed maps.
Task 2 : Upland and tributary treatment efforts utilizing low-tech methods
The goals of this task include stabilizing first order streamlets and gullies and slowing runoff in upland areas; demonstrating and testing alternative methods; teaching low-tech methods to watershed residents and youth crews; and assessing the effects of stabilization, demonstration and training efforts.
Task 3 : Grazing management
The RPMC promotes grazing management practices that improve the health of the uplands in the project areas. Better grazing management addresses the root causes of impairment and water quality degradation. Grazing in the dormant season and/or increasing the rest period for grazed land increases the ground cover, particularly cool season grasses. This translates into less bare ground, decreased sheet erosion, and less sediment transport. Objectives of this task are to improve uplands/grasslands conditions through grazing management practices. Workshops and demonstrations are offered.
Task 4 : Vegetation management
This task identifies sites where vegetative conditions are contributing to erosion. Establishing native trees, shrubs and grasses keeps soils, banks and floodplains in place and functioning properly. Disturbed areas in projects under other tasks are seeded to help jumpstart revegetation. In some cases, fences are built to allow vegetation to recover. A demonstration project using goats to reduce sagebrush and tamarisk is being conducted as part of this task.
Task 5 : Stream channel restoration
The objective of this task is to accelerate channel evolution toward more stable states, using different kinds of treatments. This will resulting in increased watershed stability and improved water quality. There are some sites in the Rio Puerco or its tributaries where the basic elements of stream dimension, pattern and profile are not in equilibrium with desired stable stream conditions. For example, straight channel segments or deeply incised channels downstream suggest accelerated erosion. Different approaches, such as induced meandering techniques, conventional channel restoration approaches, and bioengineering applications are used and assessed.
Task 6 : Road assessment and modification
Rural dirt roads are a major source of sediment in the watershed. Poorly designed, located or maintained dirt roads can intercept, divert, concentrate and accelerate surface runoff. This leads to accelerated soil erosion, gully formation, and channel downcutting. Runoff of fine-grained sediments increases turbidity and stream bottom deposits, directly impacting water quality. This task has treated a variety of road drainage problems in the watershed.
Task 7 : Education and outreach
This task is the heart of the Watershed Initiative grant. The RPMC works to get input from local residents about their watershed. Through a variety of techniques, the committee invites the local community to learn about and participate in watershed restoration projects. Using newsletters, the website, and publications, information about watershed restoration is shared with stakeholders.

The RPMC uses their "Land Health Kiosk" to do outreach at public events such as local festivals and fairs. The kiosk, along with environmental education curricula focused on watershed health and restoration, is also presented to schools within the upper watershed.
Task 8 : Monitoring and evaluation
Monitoring activities for the above tasks includes baseline measures and significant amounts of photo-documentation before, during, and after treatments. Meeting the requirements of the EPA's Watershed Initiative program, water quality sampling is also occurring during this grant project. Through monitoring, the RPMC will demonstrate that project activities contribute to reduced soil loss, increased vegetation cover and diversity, stream channel stability, healthy riparian vegetation, and improved water quality.