A few days after a sole spring shower, a few explorers walked through the Tijeras Creek Restoration site with Jim Brooks. Tijeras Creek is a tributary of the middle Rio Grande watershed, flowing westward in the canyon between the Sandia and Manzano mountains, near Interstate 40. Jim designs and constructs resilient green infrastructure using permaculture principles, and owns Soilutions, the compost company. He provided project tales and details as he guided us through the work areas.
Previously, large rainstorms would deliver stormwater draining from 16.5 acres of pavement and buildings into eroding gullies, delivering sediment and pollutants to the creek. Jim described how volunteer crews have removed multitudes of elm trees and re-sculpted the slopes so that the water slows down in basins, drains into the soil, and flows into the next basin down slope. Several rock-covered berms between the basins reveal how effective they are in altering the water’s speed and volume – sediment covers the rocks. Some areas need repair; as Jim says, it’s always a process.
Within the basins, Jim is experimenting with a “soil sponge” technique. His special soil mix is shoveled into small deep pits, where rainwater finds porous spaces to collect in, attracting nearby plant rootlets and offering seedlings a better chance at survival.
One of my favorite spots was the restored area alongside the roadway, where Jim installed a “net and pan,” a technique that harvests water in small depressions that are connected by a boomerang-shaped network of shallow channels. The mulch in the photo below covers the earthworks, making it difficult to see, but the earthwork is retaining water, creating an ecological win-win situation for grasses, herbs, worms, fungi and millions of other microscopic critters. Just add more water with the next monsoon!
There is plenty of work to do: removing unwanted plants, maintaining the existing restored area, and generating more basins and berms and gentle slopes. Jim is co-hosting an Invasive Species Control Workshop on Saturday, June 28, from 9 am until Noon. He’ll demonstrate using his favorite weed removal tool, the skidger! The location is easily found near the middle and elementary schools on Public School Rd, just southwest of the Tijeras exit on I-40. Albuquerque dwellers are fortunate to live so close to an important restoration site where we can work and learn! For more information, call Soilutions at 877-0220.