Española, N.M. — The Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor joined the governors of two tribal nations in signing a design agreement Nov. 9, 2022.
Governor J. Patrick Aguino of Ohkay Owingeh and Governor J. Michael Chavarria of Santa Clara Pueblo along with Connor signed design agreements with each pueblo for the Espanola Valley Ecosystem Restoration project during an official ceremony at the Ohkay Owingeh Tribal Lakes. This approximately $100 million project design agreement is the first of its kind in terms of scale with tribal nation sponsors. It is also the first to use the “ability to pay” provision for this type of project to significantly reduce the cost share of a tribal partner.
“This particular environmental restoration project is the first major army civil works project done, to be developed, authorized, and now funded solely to benefit the natural and cultural resources of tribal entities. This is a $100 million dollar project, yet that fits into the category of major civil works projects solely to benefit tribal nations,” said Connor.
When completed, the project is slated to restore 958 acres of aquatic and riparian habitats along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. The project is intended to benefit future generations by bringing back life along the river and the nationally scarce habitat of the bosque, which is an integral part of the cultural landscape and identities of both Pueblos.
“Environmental protection is one of our core responsibilities and I’m excited that we can be here,” said Lt. Col. Jerre Hansbrough, USACE-Albuquerque District commander.
Ohkay Owingeh and Santa Clara Pueblo previously received their tribal councils’ approval to partner with the USACE-Albuquerque District for the ecosystem restoration project.
Tribal council members, officials and staff from each Pueblo, representatives from N.M. Senator Ben Ray Lujan’s and N.M. Senator Martin Heinrich’s offices, and leadership from USACE’s South Pacific Division and the Albuquerque District attended the ceremony.
The Albuquerque District team is coordinating with both Pueblos’ technical staffs on the final location of the project’s features in order to start design work.
Española is located 25 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ohkay Owingeh is located along the Rio Grande north of Española with which it shares a common border. The land includes river bottomlands and mountains. The pueblo has an enrolled population of a little more than 2,700.
The Pueblo of Santa Clara, with an enrolled population of approximately 2,800, is located just south of Española on both sides of the Rio Grande.