September 8, 2008

Slow and Steady

The New Mexican

The often dry Santa Fe River will continue flowing for at least the next month, thanks to plentiful rains and the city's decision to release water from Santa Fe Canyon reservoirs.

The city's Sangre de Cristo Water Division is letting the river flow as part of a "growing effort to restore the entire Santa Fe River system to a healthy, living channel," according to a city announcement.

Utility managers plan to keep the water flowing in the river until a total of 200 acre-feet or 65 million gallons has been released. In Santa Fe, 200 acre-feet of water provides enough water for approximately 1,300 households for a year.

"We've been very fortunate this year," Water Division Director Gary Martinez said in a statement. "We think we'll be able to use our full surface water right, go into next year with our reservoirs half full, and have a flowing Santa Fe River part of the year."

The city's reservoirs were 85 percent filled Friday.

Mayor David Coss is promoting the idea of devoting 1,000 acre- feet of water a year to the river. Dave Groenfeldt, executive director of the Santa Fe Watershed Association, said the group supports that as a "reasonable amount of flow to begin with" in trying to have a living river.

"We're asking the City Council to build on this flow and keep it going," Groenfeldt said.

Historically, he said, releases from the reservoirs east of the city have averaged more than 1,000 acre-feet of water annually over the last several years. But the water is usually released in short, mass amounts, while river advocates say it would be better to have a slower, steadier flow over a longer period of time.

Meanwhile, the first phase of the Santa Fe River Trail project is scheduled to start Wednesday, when contractors will begin installing about 1,800 feet of a 10-foot-wide concrete trail along the river at the east end of Santa Fe River Road off Alameda Street.

The city will have a noon ceremony on Sept. 15 to celebrate the beginning of the trail construction.

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