Talon News - Good Local News



March 23, 2018

L-R Melissa Mays of San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District and Jaclynn Fallon- Coordinator for San Juan Watershed group. PHOTO D. Albright-TALON

How dry is it? Newly appointed San Juan Watershed Group (SJWG) Coordinator, Jaclynn Fallon said, "The data we've seen so far at this point of the year is very similar to what we experienced in 2002". Melissa May, Manager of San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District (SJS&WCD), agreed that--given the lack of snow and rain this season "water conservation measures will likely be required". The two non-profit groups work together closely to address water and soil quality issues in the Four Corners.

May explained their relationship: "SJS&WCD is the fiscal agent for SJWB, meaning that we sign the contracts and manage the funds for all of SJWG's grants. This is because SJWG is an 'ad hoc' group and doesn't have its own legal status (tax ID, etc). SJWG is in the process of developing bylaws, but at the moment it is basically a group of concerned citizens/agencies that work together to develop priorities and seek grant funding for implementing water quality improvement projects. San Juan Soil & Water Conservation District contracts a Coordinator---Ms. Fallon---on the San Juan Watershed Group's behalf, assists in managing the grants and fills one of five seats on the SJWG'S Steering Committee.

"San Juan Soil & Water Conservation District has three parts: *To protect, restore, enhance and promote the wise use of natural resources. *To promote stewardship through education. *To provide financial and administrative assistance to citizens and groups in the district". She added, "Our relationship with SJWG falls into the third part of our mission, and their activities in turn help us too", Melissa stated.

Deep concern for the extremely dry conditions is justified. Fallon, a geologist and former rafting guide said, "Water conservation measures are on everyone's mind". She recently presented the chart below at the Tamarisk Coalition's Riparian Restoration Conference in Grand Junction. It clearly shows that so far in 2018, we are below the 2002 level of precipitation.

SJWG began in 2002 when a group of concerned citizens met to discuss the extreme water shortage due to a lack of snowpack in the mountains and the minimal rainfall locally. Regarding funding, Fallon said, "We do get Federal funds and we are primarily grant-funded. Right now we're working on several projects as part of a Clean Water Act Section 319 grant. And we are working on projects that are part of a BHP Billiton Grant."

Knowlton Arroyo, north of Aztec is a top priority for both groups, as it poses overflow danger to the Lower Animas Irrigation Ditch, where they intersect. "We'll be working with a contractor to install sediment fencing after a site survey is completed," Fallon said. "We always need to have projects on deck because we never know when grant proposals will be requested."

There is always statewide competition with other agencies for grant money. May said, "There are 47 Conservation Districts in New Mexico, so they sort of run along county lines---with some overlap. The local one pretty much covers the northwest corner of the state". SJS&WCD is a quasi-governmental agency, "basically a political subdivision with a locally-elected board, but we follow all the state regulations", May said. "Our current goal is to go after as many grants as possible."

Volunteers are vital to the San Juan Watershed Group. They have helped on a regular basis to take samples of rivers for contamination. "We did one testing project where volunteers went our every Monday for eight months", May said. Funding is in place for improving water quality where livestock graze and use the rivers directly as a water source. SJS&WCD programs include: Russian Olive and Salt Cedar removal, Herbicide Cost Share, Invasive Weed Management, Watersheds and Water Quality, Farm and Range Conservation, Education and Outreach.

In 2002, a water pipeline was constructed between Aztec and Bloomfield. Fallon, when queried for more details, searched the TALON archives. There were two articles written on the subject. As of this writing, this reporter is seeking to find out if the pipeline still operational---if needed this summer.


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