E-Currents

May/June 2016

Greetings from Staff at Amigos Bravos









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Upcoming Events

Midnight Meadows Restoration Weekend
Friday, August 19 - Sunday, August 21, 2016  

Camp with us overnight Friday and join us for the day Saturday for a full-day of work to protect and restore wet meadow wetlands in the Upper Red River Watershed. 

Please contact Amigos Bravos at 575-758-3874 for more information about how to volunteer.


Wetland Restoration in Midnight Meadows 
(June 2015)


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Contact Info

Casa Baca
Amigos Bravos' Office

Amigos Bravos
P. O. Box 238
105-A Quesnel St.
Taos, NM 87571
575-758-3874

www.amigosbravos.org

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South Valley of Albuquerque youth participate in water quality monitoring events
 
Valle de Oro Community Water Quality Sampling 
Project Summary
 
Amigos Bravos' EPA Valle de Oro small grant urban waters project is wrapping up. As part of this project, Amigos Bravos worked with numerous partners including Talking Talons Youth Leadership, US Fish and Wildlife, Valle de Oro Friends Group, and Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Project (BEMP) to conduct community outreach, education and monitoring at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in the south valley of Albuquerque. The Valle de Oro is the first urban NWR in the Southwest and is extremely important to the largely Hispanic and low-income neighborhoods that surround the Refuge.
 
Over the past two years, we have conducted 21 student and community-based water quality monitoring events at the Refuge across all sources of surface water including an irrigation ditch, the east riverside drain, and the Rio Grande. These sampling events have engaged 332 community members and students (285 students, 24 teachers/parents, and 23 Community Volunteers)! During these events, kids learned about stormwater and watershed health. Talking Talons Youth Leadership, one of our grant partners, put together a project video of documenting youth engagement and learning about urban waters in the Middle Rio Grande. 
 
South Valley of Albuquerque youth learn about stormwater and watershed health

Nutrients, metals, pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs), PCBs, E.coli, and field parameters such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH were sampled. High levels of phosphorus, E.coli and Aluminum were detected at all sites. The presence of 17 PPCPs were documented in the Rio Grande. No PCBs were detected during the 4 stormwater events we sampled.
 
BEMP's part of the project involved working with students to document groundwater levels, leaf litter, and arthropods at the Refuge. During the two year grant period, it was exciting to see the levels of arthropods significantly increase - a sign that the area is increasing in diversity since being protected as a Wildlife Refuge in 2012!


F unding Approved to Address E. coli Contamination in Rio Fernando de Taos

Amigos Bravos to Work with Stakeholders to Identify Pollution Sources and Solutions
Volunteers conduct inventory of erosional features


Amigos Bravos, Because Water Matters was awarded Clean Water Act Section 319(h) grant funds by the New Mexico Environment Department, to create a Watershed Based Plan to address E. coli contamination in the Rio Fernando de Taos. This work will involve an intense sampling effort to pinpoint locations and sources of E. coli pollution. 

The Watershed Based Plan, scheduled to be completed by April 1, 2019, will involve working with local stakeholders, property owners, and residents to identify and prioritize on-the-ground projects to reduce the E. coli impairment. 

"We are thrilled to begin this collaborative effort and bring action to the known E. coli pollution which degrades a waterway that flows directly through the Taos community", said Shannon Romeling, Projects and Foundations Coordinator for Amigos Bravos.

"This project will expand the current water sampling efforts that Water-Sentinels-Rios de Taos and Amigos Bravos conduct each year in Taos County, and allow us to test more of our samples for E. coli, leading to a better understanding of the problem and how to address it", said Eric Patterson, Lead coordinator for Water Sentinels, a key partner in the project. "We are also very interested to determine why E. coli levels are so consistently high in the Rio Fernando as it flows through Fred Baca Park," Eric continued.

Amigos Bravos and watershed stakeholders will create a Watershed Based Plan for the Río Fernando de Taos that includes the nine components outlined in the EPA's Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidance in order to create a comprehensive Watershed Based Plan.

The nine items include:
  1. Identification of causes and sources of pollution that need to be controlled
  2. Estimates of load reductions that could be achieved with new management measures
  3. Descriptions of management measures to achieve goals
  4. An implementation schedule
  5. Interim milestones to track implementation of management measures
  6. Criteria to measure progress toward meeting watershed goals
  7. A monitoring plan to measure progress
  8. An information/education component
  9. Identification of technical and financial assistance (cost estimates and relevant programs) needed to implement the plan

Stakeholder meetings will be held 3 times a year and be open to the public. In addition to conducting watershed meetings, Amigos Bravos will individually reach out to many stakeholders including, but not limited to, the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District, Taos Valley Acequia Association, Rio Fernando Acequia Associations, Carson National Forest, recreational users and organizations, the two USFS grazing permittees in the project area, NM Department of Transportation, Town of Taos, homeowners and homeowner associations in the project area - especially those that utilize on-site waste treatment, the Northern New Mexico Stockman's Association, the Range Improvement Task Force, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and Taos County.

Amigos Bravos is seeking volunteers to assist in our monthly sampling efforts, which will continue for the next 2 years. Please contact Shannon Romeling in the Amigos Bravos office at 575-758-3874 to become involved.

Status of Restoration Efforts 
at Chevron's Questa Mine
 
Many of our long-time members and supporters are very familiar with the issues regarding the old Molycorp mine at Questa.  Amigos Bravos was founded in 1988 as a response to the chronic problems there.  There have been a series of owners over its nearly 100-year history, culminating in its purchase by Chevron Mining Inc. in 2005.  EPA issued a Superfund Record of Decision detailing $500 to $800 million in 2010.  Chevron permanently shut down the mine in 2014 and commenced remediation activities, with about 300 people working to remediate the site currently. 
 
Historic operations have left many issues for the EPA and Chevron to resolve, including over 360 million tons of acid-generating waste rock that were left when open pit operations ceased.  The mine pit and waste rock now scar more than a thousand acres of watershed between Questa and the town of Red River.
Molycorp/Chevron Open Pit
Chevron Molycorp Mine pit and waste rock piles

 
Amigos Bravos has been participating in a Technical Working Group (TWG), along with representatives of Chevron, the Village of Questa, EPA, and the state of New Mexico for the past 2 years.  An urgent issue that the TWG has been addressing is how to stabilize the waste rock piles.  Tactics for a successful stabilization include ensuring a "safe" angle of repose and the addition of topsoil and other growth medium to re-vegetate the rock piles.
 
Another urgent problem being addressed during the remediation is acidic runoff from the old mine operational area, which has the potential to dissolve heavy metals and other contaminants as it flows to the Red River. Chevron has been constructing a very large water treatment plant, with two equipment trains of 1600 gallons per minute each.  The idea of the plant is to capture all the runoff water from the operational area, treat it to remove heavy metals and other contaminants, and return it to the Red River in a relatively pristine condition. The treatment plant is scheduled to go online this fall. This is a huge improvement from the current practice of sending mine runoff and tailings waste down the tailing pipe line into the unlined tailings ponds. An added bonus to this change in operations is the that treated water will be discharged back into the stream higher up the canyon, resulting in increased flows for the Red River.
 
On March 30 of this year, a number of Amigos Bravos staff and members of our Board of Directors took a tour of the mine with a focus on the remediation efforts.  We reviewed plans developed by the TWG and toured the new Wastewater treatment plant.
 
Chevron has been negotiating the detailed provisions of the remediation with the regulatory agencies, and although a lot of progress has been made, much work remains to be done.  The scale of the effort is so daunting that certain aspects of the clean-up will require nearly "perpetual care."
 
Another component of the cleanup effort is the Office Natural Resources Trustee (ONRT) process. This is where the state and other trustees assess the amount of damages to the local resources (groundwater, surface water and wildlife habitat) and enter into negotiations with the responsible party, which in this Chevron. A final ONRT consent decree between Chevron and the trustees was signed in 2015. The decree outlines that 2.5 million will be use for projects to restore groundwater resources and 1.5 million will be used for projects to restore aquatic habitat. The trustees are now accepting applications for restoration projects to restore these resources and will be allocating the $4million of funds to worthy projects later this year. The deadline for project proposals is August 1st.

Click here to find out more information.


We Have a Winner! 
Amigos Bravos' Annual Raffle for the Rio a Success!

 
Amigos Bravos asked for your help to ensure clean water and free-flowing rivers for future generations during our 2016 Annual Raffle for the Rio. And many of you responded with the purchase of tickets. As a result, we were able to meet our fundraising goal!

The lucky winner, Paul Dembski, of Ranchos de Taos, NM, will choose 1 of 3 prizes: An all-inclusive vacation package for 2, including airfare, at  Hamanasi, a unique Belize resort; 1 acre of land in Northern New Mexico; or $3,000 cash. 

The Raffle for the Rio is our single largest annual event fundraiser. Your generous support allows us to tackle unexpected water-related issues that arise in communities across New Mexico during the next year. We couldn't do it without you!! Thank you so much!

Sincerely,

Amigos Bravos Staff and Board

 

  
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