More than 80 Rio Grande stakeholders met at the District headquarters Feb. 18 to discuss urbanization issues and possible projects associated with the Rio Grande, referred to by some as the “spine of New Mexico.”
Representatives from federal, state, local and tribal entities across Texas, New Mexico and Colorado discussed technical, professional and public concerns during the one-day meeting, providing an overview of current activities and opening the door for new collaboration. The meeting was patterned after a gathering in 2006.
“The meeting five years ago produced many of the initiatives on the Rio Grande that we are working today,” said the District’s Deputy for Project Management Jorge Colberg.
Facilitated by Project Manager Ron Kneebone, the meeting included presentations on the river’s salinity levels, flood risk management issues, issues along the border with Mexico and ongoing data-collection and research projects.
The group was also able to speak remotely with project managers in the Rock Island District to consider past environmental initiatives on the Upper Mississippi River as possible models for efforts on the Rio Grande. A trio from the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Service answered questions and provided insight into the success of 24 years of partnership on the Upper Mississippi.
When the floor was opened for comments, the assembled group focused on productive “next steps,” such as developing an organization and future discussions to maintain the meeting’s momentum. Key considerations voiced involved: collecting data to show the value of Rio Grande ecology and recreation; engaging stakeholders who might be impacted by future decisions and solutions; avoiding piecemeal approaches and moving toward watershed planning; using “passive adaptive” management to apply successful techniques used elsewhere on the Rio Grande and educating each other on funding mechanisms required or already in place.
In another five years, New Mexico and sister states could be enjoying the fruits of this meeting along the reaches of the river. Additionally, the participants were able to network and make connections that may shape the future of water resources planning, as it pertains to this important and legendary water source.