Help prioritize water projects for the San Juan, Blanco, Navajo watersheds

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By Mandy Eskelson | Watershed Enhancement Partnership

As we all rejoice recent snowstorms and look forward to spring runoff, the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP) invites community members and visitors to join our upcoming workshop in Pagosa Springs on April 7 to prioritize water projects identified in 2021. 

The WEP has guided a locally driven effort since 2018 to identify water needs and opportunities in the upper San Juan, Blanco and Navajo watersheds, with the goal of creating a water plan and list of priority projects and actions in preparation for a potentially warmer, drier future in this region. The development of this water plan includes exploring project opportunities that support river health and our community’s ability to rely on rivers for multiple uses, now and in the future.

A draft list of projects and actions within the San Juan, Blanco and Navajo watersheds is available for review and feedback on the WEP’s website at: http://www.mountainstudies.org/sanjuan/smp. Based off of technical assessments from our partners, Lotic Hydrological and San Juan Conservation District, and public input from surveys and meetings, six major areas of concern or categories related to water have been identified, including: 1) agriculture, 2) wildlife and biodiversity, 3) wildfire and forest health, 4) drinking water, 5) angling and 6) whitewater boating. Within each of these categories, the WEP has identified broad needs to be addressed, with a draft list of 18 projects and processes so far. The WEP hopes to work with partners to help directly turn this water plan and list into action, with a pilot project with the Town of Pagosa Springs in the Yamaguchi South area set to begin this summer (see the WEP website for more details). 

During the month of March, we encourage interested individuals or groups to help refine these project ideas or add additional opportunities by contacting WEP partner Seth Mason (Lotic Hydrological, seth@lotichydrological.com), or Mandy Eskelson (mandy@mountainstudies.org). 

Once we have refined this project/action list, the WEP will host a public workshop on April 7, focused on prioritizing projects and actions for each of the above mentioned areas of concerns (ag, wildlife, forest health, angling, etc.) to be included in the local water plan. The WEP will also have a public review/comment period on a draft water plan in April. The WEP will post details on the workshop location and times in the near future, but the group hopes to host this as an in-person event, depending on COVID guidelines. 

If you would like to learn more about the WEP and the details of our planning process, visit www.mountainstudies.org/sanjuan/smp and contact Mandy Eskelson (mandy@mountainstudies.org) or Al Pfister (westernwildscapes@gmail.com).