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The Rio Nutrias Watershed-Based Plan

The Rio Nutrias Watershed... Click to enlarge.

In New Mexico, watershed-based planning is an important component of the Nonpoint Source Management Program.  More than a requirement for On-The-Ground (OTG) Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 319 funding, watershed-based planning helps foster communication and coordination between people, organizations, and programs working to protect and restore the environment.

Abraham Franklin
Program Manager
(505) 827-2793

USEPA-ACCEPTED Plan 3.2 MB Download the 3.2 MB PDF file today...
USEPA REVIEW LETTER 181 KB Download the 181 kb PDF file today...


Bulleted item Rio Chama Watershed Restoration Action Strategy
- 2005
Bulleted item Lower Rio Chama Watershed TMLD - 2004

The Rio Nutrias is located within the greater Rio Chama Watershed (USGS Hydrologic Code 13020102), Rio Arriba County, New Mexico. The Rio Nutrias is part of the Cebolla/Nutrias watershed planning area. This watershed based planning approach is specific to the Rio Nutrias (Rio Chama to headwaters) (NM- 2116.A_060). The size of the Rio Nutrias watershed is 106 square miles and the miles of impaired stream reach is 34.63 miles. The Rio Nutrias watershed has four smaller watersheds including the Upper, Middle and Lower Rio Nutrias, and the Rito de los Ojas.

US EPA Accepts Watershed-Based Plan for the Rio Nutrias Watershed, Rio Arriba County, New Mexico USA

In June 2015, Region 6 EPA accepted the watershed-based plan for the Rio Nutrias, which was developed by the Rio Nutrias Community with input and review by several key stakeholders including staff members of the Watershed Protection Section of the Surface Water Quality Bureau.  This plan built on several earlier efforts including the 1999 Esperanza Grazing Association's CWA §319(h) OTG watershed management project. In 2000, a Cebolla/Nutrias Watershed Improvement Group was formed. That group has been highly successful in leveraging funds to continue work on individual projects to improve watershed conditions, such as thinning contracts on private land, acquiring EQIP funds for private conservation work and working successfully to maintain relationships with Federal agencies to facilitate regulatory processes for conservation work to continue.

In 2003, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) performed an Environmental Assessment (EA), an analysis of the management plan for grazing permit renewal, on the Esperanza and Las Nutrias allotments to allow the conservation work under another CWA §319 grant. In 2005, the Meridian Institute created the Rio Chama Watershed Restoration Action Strategy. That plan was created for the greater Rio Chama Watershed. In 2010, an EA for the Canjilon Ranger District's Range Improvements Project was completed by the U.S. Forest Service. The EA document discusses proposed range improvements on these allotments including water development, among other tasks. Also in 2010, the BLM created an EA for seven allotments located in the Rio Chama Watershed. That EA was for grazing permit renewal and included three BLM allotments: Rio Nutrias, Chico and Esperanza, all within the Rio Nutrias watershed. Finally, In 2014, the BLM released the Rio Chama Wilderness Study Area Vegetation Treatment Project. This document proposes to use fire, herbicide and mechanical means to manipulate vegetation within the study area. The project boundary falls at the outermost western border of the watershed and includes only small slices of the Nutrias Canyon and Esparanza allotments.

The Rio Nutrias was listed on the 2010-2012 CWA Integrated §303(d)/§305(b) List of Assessed Surface Waters. The 303(d) list identified the Rio Nutrias as impaired by turbidity. The impairment was originally listed on the 2002-2004 CWA Integrated 303(d)/305(b) List of Assessed Surface Waters. Supported designated uses include domestic water supply, fish culture, irrigation and wildlife habitat; unsupported uses are high quality coldwater aquatic life. According to the 2004 TMDL for the lower Rio Chama, probable sources of impairment on the Rio Nutrias include agriculture, rangeland, removal of riparian vegetation, streambank modification/destabilization, and road maintenance (improperly placed culverts).

While information needs in other watersheds may be very different, the Rio Santa Barbara Watershed Plan provides an example application of nine planning elements published by EPA in the Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories in the October 2003 Federal Register.  We hope this example will be useful for planning efforts in other New Mexico watersheds.

For more information, please contact Abe Franklin at the e-address or phone number provided above.


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