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Sambrito Wetlands restoration project beginning in January at Navajo State Park

Photo courtesy John Livingston/CPW
The Sambrito Wetlands at Navajo State Park will undergo a project to restore 34 acres of the wetlands and streamside habitat beginning the first week of January. 

Colorado Parks and Wildlife

A project to restore an additional 34 acres of wetland and streamside habitat is set to begin its final phase in January at the Sambrito Wetlands Complex at Navajo State Park. The area will be closed to the public during construction and will be well marked with closure signs.

This project, coordinated by the Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and Ducks Unlimited, will bring to life the vision of a myriad of partners who have participated in various planning efforts for the project during the last decade.

“We are happy to see this project come to fruition after multiple years of work and planning,” said CPW Deputy Southwest Region Manager Heath Kehm. “Through the work of key partners and funding through several grants, we are eager to see this area of Navajo State Park restored for the benefit of wildlife, wildlife viewing and waterfowl hunting here in southwest Colorado.”

The Sambrito Wetlands are on federal land owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and managed under agreement by CPW. Sambrito is part of a wetland complex in Colorado that was enhanced to benefit wildlife during construction of Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.

Since its construction, the water infrastructure and ditches have fallen into disrepair, resulting in diminished environmental and recreational benefits.

In 2012, CPW commissioned a management plan that identified several areas where infrastructure improvements could be made to restore wetland function and increase recreational opportunities. In 2013, CPW funded an initial phase of work which was completed in 2016.

This current project will continue and complete all work identified in the management plan published in 2013 to restore the Sambrito Wetlands to full functionality.

The Sambrito and adjacent Miller Mesa Wetlands Complex were intensively managed for wildlife between 1964 and 1993 through habitat improvements, food production units and wetland creation and enhancements. However, the complexes were not as actively managed in the intervening years and became dilapidated because of limited resources.

The current project will reinvigorate waterfowl habitat and improve recreational opportunities by renovating and repairing the existing water diversion and conveyance system, which will deliver water from West Sambrito Creek (Vallejo Arroyo) to five wetland impoundments. The project will also restore hydrologic functions to a section of West Sambrito Creek and potentially benefit the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

Strategies to avoid and minimize impacts to the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and its habitat guided development of the project, and Bureau Reclamation staff will be on-site to monitor construction activities occurring in critical habitat.

Ducks Unlimited designed and engineered the wetland improvements and will lead as the project manager. Geringer Construction, a contractor from the San Luis Valley experienced in wetland restoration, will work on the project from early winter through spring 2023.

“We are very excited to move forward with this project,” said John Denton, Colorado Manager of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited Inc. “The habitat improvement work in this unique and important wetland complex will highlight this great conservation partnership and will pay dividends for wildlife and the public for years to come.”

CPW will provide any ongoing management and maintenance for the wetlands.

Funding for this project has come through the Colorado Water Conservation Board Water Supply Reserve Fund grant, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant, and the CPW Colorado Wetlands and Wildlife Program grant.

The Southwest Wetlands Focus Area Committee has also been a champion for the project through its continued leadership and support.

CPW’s ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Wetlands for Wildlife Program is a voluntary, collaborative and incentive-based program to restore, enhance and create wetlands and riparian areas in Colorado. Funds are allocated annually to the program, and projects are recommended for funding by a CPW committee with final approval by the director.

For more about the CPW wetlands project funding, go to https://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/WetlandsProjectFunding.aspx.

Navajo State Park is a major recreational facility in southwest Colorado.

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