The San Juan Watershed Group is making $50,000 in grant money available to landowners willing to install fencing, vegetated filter strips and other runoff pollution control mechanisms through its Riprarian Stewards Program.
The grant is part of a cost-sharing project where property owners provide for the labor cost and the watershed group provides the materials, said Melissa May, of the San Juan Soil and Water Conservation District.
The fencing and filter strips work in tandem, she said. Fencing keeps livestock further away from the river and allows riverbank areas to revegetate, reducing erosion and stress on riverside areas. The strips slow down and filter runoff into the rivers, preventing manure, livestock feces and other pollutants from entering the river water.
As part of the program, letters were sent to people who owned property along the Animas River between Aztec and Flora Vista. Last month four people attended an open house in Aztec and two applications for funding were submitted.
The project focuses on the stretch of the Animas River between Aztec and Flora Vista because recent studies found elevated levels of nutrients, bacteria and sediment in that section, May said.
Property owners will be able to apply for funding until the $50,000 grant runs out, she said.
The San Juan Watershed group also works with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to identify and install environmental protection infrastructure with willing property owners, said David Tomko, the group's watershed coordinator.
Government influence over property owners, however, is minimal, he said.
"The EPA and the state only regulate point sources," Tomko said.
Non-point sources such as homes or ranches are essentially unregulated, he said.
"This isn't a slippery slope," Tomko said. "We're just trying to find grassroots solutions."
For more information on the Riprarian Stewards Program or to apply for funding, contact Melissa May at 505-334-3090.