Through public education and outreach, the RGHRP has successfully established a position in the community as a leader in addressing issues on the Rio Grande. Public outreach is performed to raise awareness of the RGHRP and to encourage landowners to consider participating in projects. The public education and outreach component has involved the development of visual aids showing the specific project sites, conducting interviews and status reports on local radio stations, submitting newspaper articles about RGHRP and the Program’s progress, and giving presentations to local committees. These committees include the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, local conservation and conservancy districts’ boards, and civic organizations. Additionally, the RGHRP through its Education and Outreach Program has held local public meetings in response to requests by interested landowners and public entities.
In addition to education of the public, some of our projects seek to better inform our partners and ourselves about the condition of the river, the community's values, and what actions should be taken to improve the river in line with those values. Since the 2001 Study, we have managed several other studies and plans, including the Lower Rio Grande Study, the Rio Grande Basin Plan, and the Stream Management Plans for the Rio Grande, Conejos River, and Saguache Creek, which are currently underway.
The RGHRP's fiscal agent acted as the fiscal agent for the original iteration of this project, overseen by the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable. Basin Implementation Plans were created as part of Colorado's Water Plan to identify water needs in each river basin and the opportunities, projects, and methods that the roundtables would implement to meet current and future water resource challenges. With the Technical Update to the Colorado water Plan, The original BIP documents are also getting an update. The Restoration Project was hired as the "Local Expert" for the Rio Grande Basin, overseeing the update process through the organization of local expert meetings, collaboration with the Roundtable, and administration.
Funded through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a grant from Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund, the Lower Rio Grande Study analyzed the reach of the Rio Grande between the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and the State Line, a portion not included in the RGHRP 2001 Study. Designated as the Rio Grande Natural Area (RGNA) by Congress in 2006, this 33-mile reach of the Rio Grande is home to spectacular wildlife, cultural, and historical resources. As part of the RGNA designation, a commission of 9 volunteer stakeholders was assembled to assist private landowners and the BLM in developing a management plan for the RGNA. While some areas of concern were already documented, the entire reach had not been inventoried. The study included outreach to landowners, floating the entire reach, targeted surveying, and recording data on streambank stability, riparian habitat condition, geomorphology, in-stream structures, aquatic habitat, and sediment transport. In the RGNA exists an area of special interest that was recently designated as critical habitat for the endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher. This study resulted in a final report that will aid in developing and prioritizing restoration projects along the study reach.
The implementation of the Lower Rio Grande Study was split into two phases. In Phase 1, funded partially by the Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund in 2013, project partners documented and assessed the project area, as described above. Data was compiled and summarized in preparation for Phase 2 of the project. Phase 1 was completed in the fall of 2014. In Phase 2, project partners used the inventory of data from Phase 1 to complete an analysis of the conditions of subreaches, and develop and prioritize restoration projects. The final report is a critical piece of the RGNA planning effort, as it provides in-depth baseline data for the commission. The report is also a guideline for the BLM and RGHRP to implement restoration projects in the reach; these projects will further improve the health and continuity of the Rio Grande by complementing work that has been completed upstream by the RGHRP in the 2001 Study reach.
The RGHRP partners with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, Conejos Water Conservancy District, and Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative to facilitate the Rio Grande Water Leaders Course. The goal of the Rio Grande Water Leaders Course is to provide the opportunity for community members to engage in education and networking to prepare them to take a future role in safeguarding, developing, and managing the water resources of the San Luis Valley. The Water Course introduces state and local water management principles to young professionals and engages them in the local water community. Course topics covered include San Luis Valley hydrology, history of Colorado water development, key court cases, water rights administration, groundwater management, river restoration, and much more. Course participants are presented with Colorado Foundation for Water Education Citizen's Guides that provide a foundation to understand the complexities of water management and policy decisions.