La Mancha Wetland Progress Report

Work has resumed at SWEC's La Mancha Wetland Project. In February, our contractors finished excavating a pond that will hold water year-round, providing a refuge for fish, turtles, frogs and other species even when there is little or no water in the river. The next and final phase of the project will be to construct a connecting channel across the IBWC floodway to the river.

We'll post frequent progress reports here. Scroll down for older posts.

April 5th - Spring has Sprung at La Mancha

The Rio Grande flows again and the sap is rising, turning La Mancha into a beautiful green habitat for native birds and fish. 

Sunrise over the Rio Grande

A redwing blackbird singing in the morning sun, in the La Mancha marsh.

Cottonwood saplings beginning to leaf

Life returns to La Mancha

January 31. Day 11 of construction.

Mike and Van worked yesterday, even though it was the weekend. They would have both worked today except for the unfortunate mishap with the bulldozer. A rogue piece of concrete rolled up and smashed the dozer grill (see photo below) and cut some radiator lines, putting an end to the day's dirt moving. As a result, the guys will not be able to finish the dirtwork on Monday as scheduled, and will have to return later next week.

Van still did what he could today with the excavator. Check out the very cool log footbridge he installed!

The pond is getting much bigger. Compare this photo to the preconstruction photo at the bottom of the page. Also, check out the very cool log footbridge on the right in the photo.

Uh oh, not good. This mishap will delay completion of the dirtwork by about one week.

January 29. Day nine of construction.

Another full day of moving tons of dirt and digging the ponds deeper.

January 28. Day eight of construction.

Ponded areas are significantly larger and will soon be connected to make a large area of aquatic habitat. Just what this area needs!

January 27. Day seven of construction.

Anybody need any big chunks of concrete? Maybe repurpose them for flagstones? We've got plenty that were buried on the site. Despite the challenge of moving all that concrete, Van and Mike are making progress. Today they started work on another pond area (see below), that will eventually be connected to the other ponds, creating one large aquatic feature.


Van explains where the new channel will go while Frankie observes.

January 26. Day six of construction.

Wow! Van and Mike moved mad amounts of dirt today. The hill on the neighbor's property is gone, as is much of the berm that was on the west side of the basin. It is exciting how much the site has been transformed. You can now begin to glimpse the outlines of the final design. And, these guys are really handy with their machines. Check out Van popping a wheelie on the excavator below. Don't try this at home!

January 25. Day five of construction.

Van and Mike continue to move massive amounts of dirt as they lower the existing hill on the neighbor's property (with permission!) and push out the existing west berm around SWEC's property. The end result will be a larger wetland, better access and a more attractive landscape overall. They've also enlarged the new pond, now down to about six feet depth. This pond will eventually be connected to the existing pond on the north end of the property, creating a much larger area of fish habitat.

Looking south. Much of the previous berm on the right has been lowered and pushed out of the photo. Frankie inspects the day's work.

January 21. Day three of construction.

Van and Mike worked until dark again. They moved a lot of dirt! The pond in the foreground (which didn't exist three days ago) is down to about six feet. The pile of concrete rubble from yesterday has been distributed strategically around the site. It's slow going, but we're making progress.

January 20. Day two of construction.

One of the challenges we face in excavating a deep, perennial pond at the site is the large quantity of concrete rubble buried there.

(The donor of the property--now deceased--did not inform us that the site had been used to dispose of concrete waste from a street reconstruction project. I guess there's no such thing as a free lunch!)

So, while that slows down the digging considerably, we're making lemonade by relocating the concrete around the perimeter of the site, and actually putting some back in the pond to create habitat for fish, insects and even turtles (think sunbathing rocks).

Here's an example of what we're dealing with. This is the pile of concrete that our Van has removed in just one day's digging.

January 19. Day one of construction.

Today the two pieces of heavy equipment arrived at the project site: an excavator on tracks that can swivel 360 degrees with a large shovel, and a big bulldozer.

Our contractor for the dirt work is Stream Dynamics out of Silver City, owned by Van Clothier. Van and his company are well-known for their ecological restoration work as well as water harvesting projects. He has subcontracted with High Desert Consulting out of El Paso, owned by Mike Gaglio, who also has a lot of ecological restoration experience in the area. We chose these guys because they truly know their stuff when it comes to wetland restoration.

Here I am congratulating Mike after the first day of work.

January 18. Pre-construction.

Here's what the site looks like now. Note Picacho Peak in the background.