Project Leader: Peter Gernsheimer Project Dates: 9/8/10 to 6/24/11 Email: email@example.com Phone: 208.914.0410 Address: 903 Lopez St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
On Sunday, May 8th the crew and the trusty Dodge where loaded up and ready to drive out to the El Mal. We were excited to return to the place that taught us the basics of conservation and a place we knew well enough to call home (We spent more time living in Cebolla canyon than any other place in the 9 month program and that counts for any one of our houses). On our drive in we noticed a suspicious amount of pink flagging that was heading toward the large arroyo off to our left and as we got closer to our camp we noticed a large cairn on the edge of the arroyo. As we got closer it started to look less like a cairn and more like a 12 ton pile of rocks, not much difference I know but we are trained to notice these things.
The next morning we were met by the leader of the El Malpais crew, Mr. Ken Jones, and he was able to make sense of the pink flagging and the giant pile of rocks. As a dump truck effortlessly made another 12 ton pile rocks next to the existing rock pile the mystery of what we were going to do this hitch was solved, make small rock piles out of large rock piles. To be more exact we were going to be constructing check dams in the bottom of the arroyo to slow down water flow and raise the stream bed level inside the canyon. Why would we do this, You may ask? Well its simple: in the bottom of the arroyo instead of being flat where water can flow equally downstream, it had created another small arroyo inside the existing arroyo that was believed to have been created by human presence in the form of a broken dam created by homesteaders. The rock dams were supposed to pile up sediment on the upstream side of the damn because, though water was supposed to flow through, dirt was supposed to get caught in the cracks and raise the water level along with the dirt level. The constructing of the dams was surprisingly technical and had to be explained to us by Dave the Hydrologist. After a day of working with Dave and the BLM interns we where deemed honorary hydrologist and where ready to build as many of these damn dams as could be built by hand over the next 7 days.
The buildings of the dams was very tiring and slow because even though the dump truck was able to dump the rock close to the edge of the arroyo we would still have to haul the rock up and down the bottom of the arroyo. Every check dam that we built moved us father away from the rock pile and stretched out our fire line until we would have to resort to loading the Dodge up with a couple of tons of rock and than driving along the side of the arroyo until we got close to a flag then we would have to resort to a good ol' fashion trundling party until all of the rock was in the bottom of the dry arroyo.
The work was very had but everyone enjoyed themselves thanks to the added company from the Albuquerque interns who were able to help us by adding another 3 pairs of hands and another pickup truck to fill with rocks, but sadly had to leave us after the third day because they had to do some important prairie dog relocating (they were just keeping the dogs off the streets). Ken Jones was also able to send us Julie, who was an SCA intern, for six of the eight days we were working and she and her co-worker Rachel where nice enough to come out into the field at dinner time and bring us the best green chili enchiladas in New Mexico. After dinner we were able to enjoy some delicious s’mores that where gifts from the awesome Albuquerque interns.
In the end if the Hitch we were able to bring the dry north west corner of New Mexico one night of way overdue rain, another night of extremely late snow , a lot of unwanted rain and 16 very important check dams. Because of our work the arroyo of Cebolla canyon will be changed forever and after this year’s monsoon season the dams will be filled with sediment and water will be able to follow a more natural flow pattern. Hopefully a few years from now there will also be seasonal watering holes that surrounding animal will be able to benefit from.