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Willows Aid Flood Recovery in Los Alamos Desert

May 29, 2014 - 12:00pm

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When September 2013 floods roared through the region, sites across Los Alamos National Laboratory, such as the Pueblo Canyon wetland, were damaged.

When September 2013 floods roared through the region, sites across Los Alamos National Laboratory, such as the Pueblo Canyon wetland, were damaged.

Nearly 10,000 willows were planted to stabilize the stream banks in a canyon damaged by floods.

Nearly 10,000 willows were planted to stabilize the stream banks in a canyon damaged by floods.

The Los Alamos weir was overrun with flood waters in September. This spring, crews removed 7,200 cubic yards of sediment that accumulated from the September 2013 floods.

The Los Alamos weir was overrun with flood waters in September. This spring, crews removed 7,200 cubic yards of sediment that accumulated from the September 2013 floods.

When September 2013 floods roared through the region, sites across Los Alamos National Laboratory, such as the Pueblo Canyon wetland, were damaged.
Nearly 10,000 willows were planted to stabilize the stream banks in a canyon damaged by floods.
The Los Alamos weir was overrun with flood waters in September. This spring, crews removed 7,200 cubic yards of sediment that accumulated from the September 2013 floods.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Associate Directorate of Environmental Programs (ADEP) has been busy with various flood recovery activities since last fall. 

Los Alamos and much of New Mexico experienced off-the-charts rains in September 2013 causing over $3 million in damage to monitoring gages, roadways, and stormwater control structures on Laboratory property.

Collaborating with Mother Nature to control sediment migration, ADEP’s Corrective Actions Program (CAP) planted nearly 10,000 willows in April to stabilize the stream banks in the Pueblo Canyon wetland, which was badly damaged by the floods. The initiative is supported by EM.

The September floods produced a head cut of nearly 1,000 meters and severely eroded the stream banks of the Pueblo Canyon wetland. A head cut is a channel carved through land upstream from discharged water.

The wetland formed as a result of discharges from Los Alamos County’s wastewater treatment facility functions as a catch-all stabilization system for sediment and contamination. If water continues to discharge through the head cut, that portion of wetland will die and no longer catch sediment.

Willow planting was the first phase of the recovery effort.

“Sometimes Mother Nature just needs a jumpstart to recover from catastrophic events,” said CAP Program Director Dave McInroy. “That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish.”

Pueblo Canyon is one of more than 130 sites where CAP is conducting flood recovery activities.

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