NMED has prepared Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the River Stewardship Program.
Combined Economic and Environmental Benefits
New Mexico has set standards to ensure that surface waters are of sufficient quality to support fish and other aquatic life as well as human use for recreation, irrigation, and municipal water supplies. Approximately 35% of New Mexico’s streams and rivers fail to meet these water quality standards. The River Stewardship Program will address these problems and help ensure water quality for these economically important uses.
The River Stewardship Program will fund projects that improve habitat for fish and wildlife and provide safe water for swimming and other recreational activities. This in turn will support hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, camping and boating. These activities are economically important to New Mexico, providing millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state economy. In 2006, 84,000 non-residents spent 467,000 days fishing in New Mexico and contributed an estimated $99 million to the state economy. In the communities of the Red River watershed, fishing contributes $6.5 million per year. As a result, the River Stewardship Program will enhance the part of New Mexico’s economy that depends on rivers and streams.
The River Stewardship Program will reduce flood hazard in downstream communities. A natural river system includes a channel (with a recognizable bed and banks) and adjacent flood plains. Even in steep canyons some flood water is temporarily stored in small floodplains, reducing the flow as a flood proceeds downstream.
Project contractors and partners have leveraged past state restoration funds on a greater than 1:1 basis with federal grants, private funds or in-kind contributions. Past state restoration funding supported the work of 68 contractors, of which 94% were New Mexico businesses or individuals.
NMED uses the funds appropriated by the NM Legislature to provide match to ensure that approximately $2.25 million per year in federal funds are awarded to New Mexico under federal Clean Water Act programs for watersheds, surface water quality and wetlands. Through these programs NMED has worked with hundreds government agency, tribal, non-profit and for-profit contractors who share the goals of clean water and healthy wildlife habitats. NMED has extensive experience managing watershed restoration funds and receives many applications for projects but has only been able fund about 20%. With the River Stewardship Program, NMED will make progress on improving surface water and stream habitat and will provide a significant return on the investment of state capital outlay funds.