Altar Valley rancher John King has taken hundreds of people down to the Altar Wash crossing a few hundred yards north of Anvil Ranch headquarters to talk about restoration of the Altar Wash drainage. He tells his grandfather's story of the days prior to 1900, when a man could walk a horse in front of a monsoon flood, watching the water spread laterally though a wide floodplain bottom covered with sacaton grass. There were no incised channels and the water ran for days.
John King tells this story standing within a deeply incised channel that is now 20 miles long, 20 feet deep and 1500 feet wide in places. During rain events, high velocity water and heavy sediment loads surge out of the valley instead of recharging aquifers and supporting the microhabitats on which the region’s native species and working landscapes depend. Head-cutting in uplands and the erosion of banks along the main wash work destructively in tandem to vacate hundreds of acres of viable habitat. The severe encroachment of the Altar Wash began in the early 20th century. The floodplain area was a travel and trade route, a road. A major flood occurred in 1904 when Aguirre Lake breached. Other land use and climatic changes added to the situation -- drought, fire suppression, overgrazing, and fuel-wood cutting.
Over a hundred years later, Altar Valley agricultural operators and Alliance partners are working together to counter these trends. The work began decades ago, when ranchers began to monitor rangeland conditions and implement scientifically based range management practices.
The Alliance Conservation Program aims to continue, expand and enhance conservation efforts. Workshops have been held with experts Bill Zeedyk and Steve Carson, to teach people about watershed dynamics and restoration techniques. Click here to learn more about these techniques. The Alliance works with land owners and managers to identify project sites, coordinate projects and bring resources and techniques to the table. Learn more about recent efforts. The scale of restoration projects varies considerably. Volunteers and small rocks can accomplish a great deal in the upper reaches of the watersheds; whereas extensive engineering and environmental analysis and complex plans will be necessary to address larger drainage situations. Every project, large and small, brings diverse partners together.
To date, the largest restoration effort that the Alliance has undertaken is the Elkhorn/Las Delicias Watershed Restoration Demonstration Project, which showcases planning, installation, and monitoring of watershed restoration practices in ephemeral arroyos and associated uplands and tributaries in a flash flood dominated landscape of the Altar Valley. Click here for the full story!
Pima County Department of Transportation integrates water harvesting into road maintenance, with help from Steve Carson, RangeHands.
Workshops with Bill Zeedyk bring people together to learn about watershed dynamics and restoration techniques.