Senator Martin Heinrich Checks Out Flood Damage At Santa Clara Canyon: Federal Funding To Help Mitigate Damage

Senator Heinrich talking with representatives frolm Santa Clara Pueblo during a tour of flood damaged areas Thursday morning. Courtesy photo

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories covering a recent visit by Senator Martin Heinrich to the Valley area. The second will contain questions and answers from a sit down interview between Senator Heinrich and the Valley Daily Post

Senator Martin Heinrich Checks Out Flood Damage At Santa Clara Canyon: Federal Funding To Help Mitigate Damage

By Robert A. Naranjo

ESPAÑOLA – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, D-NM, spent Thursday, July 2, 2015, taking a first-hand look at flood damage to the iconic Santa Clara Canyon as a result of heavy floods caused by disastrous Las Conchas Fire. With no vegetation to hold back and absorb heavy rainfall, the water ran down the Canyon unabated.

In an interview Thursday with The Valley Daily Post at El Paragua Restaurant in Española, Senator Heinrich spoke of the many people who had related to him stories of fond memories of fishing, picnicking, and camping with their families in Santa Clara Canyon. The Senator mentioned the fishing ponds that once were favorite spots in the Canyon for visitors and locals alike. Just about everyone in the area had been to and loved the Canyon. The Las Conchas Fire changed all that for at least a few generations until the forest and the flora and fauna return to its pristine environment. Then, Canyon goers will return.

The popular ponds are gone now, washed away by the floods. Courtesy photo

Senator Heinrich has been moving mountains with federal legislations to help mountains, trees, streams, and everything in a forest ecosystem. Last month, the Senator’s office welcomed good news that Santa Clara Pueblo will receive funding under a new national program geared toward  “…restoring the health and fire resilience of iconic landscapes. Santa Clara Pueblo is receiving $400,000  to complete restoration of the natural fire regime – the natural frequency, intensity, size, pattern, season, and severity of fire  — on mesa top lands, protecting ancient cliff dwellings, cultural sites, traditional food sources and watershed health,” according to a press release from Senator Heinrich’s office.

The catastrophic Las Conchas Fire which burned 150,000 acres in 2011, was caused when a dry aspen tree fell on electric transmission wires near Las Conchas in the Jemez Mountains, is still being resolved legally.  It was heavy summer rainstorms two years after the fire that caused major flooding and erosion. With no vegetation to serve as protective ground cover, the floodwaters were disastrous and caused major damage to the Santa Clara Canyon.

Senator Heinrich and others touring flood and fire damaged areas of Santa Clara Canyon. Courtesy photo

The $400,000 funding that Santa Clara Pueblo is receiving comes from the Wildland Fire Resilient Landscapes Program, which Senator Heinrich helped create.  The Pueblo has unfortunately experienced severe wildfire in the past few years burning commercial timber, threatening its watershed and the Rio Grande.  The funding will reduce 2,000 acres of hazardous vegetation through thinning and improve 7,000 more through planned burns of the mesa landscape.  Protecting the area will ensure the watershed remains stable and restore the Pueblo’s timber harvest that is crucial to the local economy the Senator’s press release goes on to say.

inspecting fire damage. Courtesy photo

During the interview, the Senator also remembered when, as a youth, he spent nearly a year doing construction, education and fieldwork for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an AmeriCorps volunteer.  He also mentioned the good work the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps is doing in environmental restoration and mentioned an all Native American youth group involved in preserving and restoring ancient sites and other valuable Native American treasures.

The Senator was visibly pleased when discussing the important work the youth are doing.  Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich is the only AmeriCorps alumnus in the U.S. Senate. 

See below for additional images from Senator Heinrich’s visit to Santa Clara Canyon.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo