Accomplishments: Middle Rio Grande Urban Waters Location
Valle de Oro National Urban Wildlife Refuge (NWR)
The first urban wildlife refuge in the southwest celebrated its 3rd birthday in September 2015. In the past two and a half years, the refuge has completed the land acquisition process, completed the 30% design phase on refuge development concepts, developed a first-of-its-kind Environmental Justice Plan for the refuge, and received an EPA EJ grant to implement the Plan. The refuge has supported the activities of four Urban Waters Small Grant recipients, hosted over 1000 school children, held monthly open houses, hosted career fairs, employed dozens of Youth Conservation Corps members, and established itself as an integral part of a community that has long suffered from the impacts of heavy industry and a severe lack of infrastructure. On October 15, 2014, the Department of Transportation announced the award of an $8 million Federal Lands Access Program grant to Bernalillo County. The County partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to obtain the funding for a multi-modal transportation project that will improve residents’ access to this natural asset.
Bridge Boulevard Redevelopment Plan
In February 2015, Bernalillo County, through its South Valley Main Street Initiative, began a series of community meetings to examine cultural identity, place making, and public art. The concepts and priorities identified will be incorporated into the implementation of the Bridge Boulevard Redevelopment Plan. The County is also in the engineering phase of the road redevelopment plans approved through the HUD/DOT funded Community Challenge Planning Grant.
Isleta Pueblo Island Removal Project
Following a request for assistance in sampling the sediment collected from the Isleta Pueblo Island Removal prior to allowing interested community partners access to free sediment, the Federal members of the Urban Waters Partnership team in Albuquerque provided technical support to coordinate in the development of the sampling plan and sample collection. The EPA Houston Laboratory committed to support the sampling exercise with lab space and necessary sampling containers. Other Federal partners include: Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and Isleta Pueblo.
Stormwater Management Innovation
In January 2014, water issues were addressed when the Middle Rio Grande Urban Waters Federal Partnership hosted a water planning workshop at the Bureau of Indian Affairs complex in Albuquerque. The event was attended by approximately 30 representatives from federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental organizations. The purpose of the workshop was to identify roles and responsibilities for water management in the Middle Rio Grande, in order to improve communication and facilitate efficient implementation of government programs. In August 2015, the Partnership collaborated with the municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) permittees to host a Green Infrastructure charrette. The 2-day charrette was attended by over 40 state, local, and NGO practitioners, and resulted in potential development concepts for several flood-prone parcels of land in the Albuquerque area.
In April and November 2014, HUD and EPA hosted an Urban Waters Federal Partnership meeting at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. Participants included Congressional representatives, state/tribal/local government officials, NGO staff and community members. Attendees received updates on the status of federally-funded projects, engaged in networking, and provided input for the Middle Rio Grande Urban Waters web site, future Middle Rio Grande Urban Waters events, and workshop topics. On March 4, 2015, the Middle Rio Grande Urban Waters Partnership convened a special meeting of stakeholders in Albuquerque, NM. The meeting was attended by DOI Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Gimbel and management from the National Park Service, EPA , USGS, USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and others. The purpose of the meeting was to emphasize the need and value of these partnership efforts and identify opportunities for the various DOI bureaus and services to support partnerships and projects across the country. The discussion addressed funding opportunities as well as community engagement opportunities and challenges.
Environmental Education and Employment
In April 2014, U.S. Fish & Wildlife staff initiated a series of meetings focused on coordination and cooperation among groups providing environmental education and employment opportunities. In August 2014, the Sustainability Officer, along with approximately 25 other federal, state, and local partners meet with the Department of the Interior and the local Congressional delegation to discuss the Middle Rio Grande Conservation Initiative and its relationship to initiatives for employment, education, transportation, development, and health care opportunities.In the year that has followed, the MRGE3 has become a formal organizational structure with AmeriCorps Vista support from USFWS. This group has established a mission and goals, appointed a Steering Committee, and been working to integrate environmental education curriculum into every classroom. Youth Conservation Corps opportunities have increased tenfold and two Conservation Career Fairs have been conducted on the Valle de Oro National Urban Wildlife Refuge.
Climate Change Scenario Planning
In July 2014, HUD and EPA hosted an Urban Waters Federal Partnership meeting at the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) to view a presentation on the Central New Mexico Climate Change Scenario Planning Project. Participants included Congressional representatives, state/tribal/local government officials, NGO staff, and community members. The Project assessed the costs and benefits of a series of growth scenarios to determine how best to manage congestion, reduce emissions, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The project coincided with the development of the Futures 2040 MTP and utilized transportation and land use scenarios to assess the region’s resiliency to the impacts of climate change. The project was a partnership between MRCOG, the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. DOT Volpe Center, and federal land management areas, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Parks Service, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Community Outreach and Education
On November 7 and 8, 2014, the Partnership hosted three public information workshops on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, including the status of projects included in the Urban Waters Federal Partnership project area. Materials were provided in English and Spanish, and a bilingual facilitator and translator service were provided. Participants included Congressional representatives, federal/state/local government officials, NGO staff and community members. In April 2015, the Partnership hosted another workshop specifically geared toward writing comments in response to a Draft Environmental Assessment.
South Valley Transportation Improvements
In February 2014, Bill Honker, EPA Regional Division Director, and Mandy Griego, HUD New Mexico Sustainability Officer and local federal lead for the Partnership, met with several staff from the New Mexico office of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The purpose of the meeting was to promote the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and improve communication between Federal agencies. There are over 20 separate project underway in the South Valley at this time. The Partnership is working to support the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and Bernalillo County with communication and education efforts that inform the public about all of the proposed construction and potential impacts.