The Rio Blanco River Restoration Project, Phase III reconstruction has begun with a $95,000 grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and matching funds from, among other organizations, the San Juan Water Conservancy District ($20k) and the Southwestern Water Conservation District ($25k). Actual work will commence in the Spring of 2009.
As a result of the legislated by-pass flows of the San Juan-Chama Transbasin Diversion that became active in the spring of 1971, the Rio Blanco underwent severe hydrological changes. During the ensuing years the river became unable to transport sedimentation downstream to the mouth of the San Juan River.
As a result, pools disappeared, and the legislated bypass flows were insufficient to support the fish habitat due to the wide and shallow streambed. The purpose of the Restoration Project is to modify the river channel nine mile reach of the Rio Blanco above its confluence with the San Juan River) to improve water quality and restore fishery and river habitat.
Phase I of the Project involved restoration to a demonstration segment of the river. With successful results from the demonstration segment, Phase II was completed in 2004. Phase II tied the initial demonstration segment with the upper reach of the Rio Blanco River. To-date, a total of approximately 3.25 miles of river have been restored. The intent of Phase III is to restore an additional 1-1.25 miles of the river.