The principal program of the RGHRP is the Riparian Restoration and Streambank Stabilization Program. The 2001 Study identified sediment input as one of the primary causes of degradation to the Rio Grande.
Sediment input from unstable and eroding banks results in a loss of streambank stability, degradation of riparian habitat, sedimentation in the channel, and the deposition of the bedload materials downstream. Such deposition also negatively affects the condition of the fisheries. The main goals of riparian stabilization projects are to improve natural stabilization of the streambank, improve the riparian and fish habitat, enhance the function of the floodplain, and increase the capacity of the river to transport sediment.
While each project is different, a typical riparian stabilization project will involve bank shaping and installation of streambank stabilization structures. Structures can be made of rock (including “J” hooks, weirs, rock barbs, and rock clusters) or woody materials (willow clumps, cottonwood saplings, root wads, and tree revetments). These structures shift and dissipate the energy of the river, reducing erosion and sediment loading. This allows for revegetation in the riparian zones, which in time reestablishes natural streambank stability. In addition to these structures, grazing control through fencing or grazing management can also help protect banks by allowing riparian vegetation to reestablish.
The RGHRP has worked with over sixty landowners and seven cost-share riparian stabilization projects on over fifty different sites, with over 4.8 million dollars raised in grant funding. This has allowed for 17 miles of streambank to be stabilized. In addition to the projects described below, this includes many of our infrastructure projects, which require stabilization on adjacent banks to protect new headgates and diversion structures. Directly, these projects benefit the participating landowners, local water users, and downstream water users. Indirectly, local, state, and regional communities benefit from the enhanced water quality, river function riparian condition, wetlands, and habitat. These benefits stem from increased land value, water availability and quality, tourism opportunities, and habitat potential. Details for each project may be found below.
This project is restoring streambanks and instream habitat on and around the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, addressing sedimentation, lack of riparian vegetation, bank instability, and trash in the river.
Our latest phase of this titular project connects previously restored stream reaches to maximize habitat benefits in the area. The project also restored streambank within the Alamosa Riparian Park, improving a great community space.
Although the main focus of this project was recreation improvements, the surrounding banks were shaped to provide the river with better access to the floodplain and increased fish habitat while also increasing accessibility for visitors and recreators.
Streambank Improved: 17000 ft
This project partnered with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust to plant willow bundles and regrade streambank on the 4UR and Rio Oxbow Ranches in the headwaters. Some grant funding was obtained from Xcel Energy, and volunteers from the Southwest Conservation Corps were kind enough to help out with the labor.
Streambank Improved: 5280 ft
This riparian improvement project was funded through grants from Xcel Energy, New Belgium Brewing Company, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District. Funding was used to hire a crew of 8 young adults from the Southwest Conservation Corps to complete revegetation efforts on riparian areas just north of Alamosa. In June 2014, the crew made and planted over 1,000 willow bundles on the project site. These willows will sprout roots and grow into bushes along the edge of the water, resulting in increased shade, stabilized streambanks, and improved quality of riparian habitat.
Grants from Xcel Energy and the Colorado State Forest Service were received to complete riparian revegetation and noxious weed removal on Phase 3 riparian areas in Alamosa County. Alamosa Boy Scouts and a SCC crew assisted in willow planting, compost spreading, and reseeding. The Project is an asset to the local community as it engaged member participation, employed young adults, supported businesses, and improved the condition of the streambanks, riparian vegetation, and wildlife habitat.
Streambank Improved: 2700 ft
The RGHRP was awarded funds from the 2010 Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund to enhance riparian revegetation on past project sites. A large revegetation event was organized with a crew from the Southwest Conservation Corps. This project utilized 80 volunteer hours and 640 SCC crew hours. Streambanks were revegetated with bare-root shrubs, trees, and willow bundles. Tree revetments were also installed.
Streambank Stabilized: 9060 ft
Completed in fall 2014, phase 4 included 7 sites in Alamosa County, improving the function of the Rio Grande by reducing sediment loading through the restoration and stabilization of 2.3 miles of riverbank, installation of rock barbs and root wads, and planting willow clumps. These efforts will result in improved water quality, reduced erosion, increased sediment transport capacity, higher quality of riparian areas and habitat, and proper functioning floodplains.
Streambank Stabilized: 4500 ft
The RGHRP was awarded funds from the NRCS Colorado Partnership Program (CPP) to treat five sites totaling 4,500 feet of streambank in Rio Grande County.
Streambank Stabilized: 7300 ft
In 2009, the RGHRP received a grant from the NRCS sponsored by the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) program, which required non-federal funds match. After consideration, it was determined that a portion of the 2009 CO WSRA grant from Phase 3 of the 2008 Rio Grande Stabilization Project could be made available as match to the CO NPS and CCPI grant. The 2009 CCPI Project was completed in Rio Grande County on twelve sites.
Streambank Stabilized: 9400 ft
In 2008 the RGHRP received a CO NPS grant to complete work on five sites. In 2009, the RGHRP also received funding from Colorado Water Supply Reserve Account (CO WSRA).
Streambank Stabilized: 8900 ft
In 2004, through partnerships with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), the RGHRP was able to complete a cost-share riparian stabilization project with funding from the Colorado Non-Point Source Program (CO NPS). Matching funds also came from the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), Colorado Habitat Improvement Program (CHIP).