BY ARIELLE ZIONTS FOR NOGALES INTERNATIONAL
Extract: A pristine portion of Sonoita Creek that was discovered last fall is providing local environmentalists with inspiration as they work to restore eroded sections of the stream.
From where the creek intersects with the northeast side of Patagonia Lake to a small waterfall a little more than a half-mile upstream, the waterway is fast moving and highly eroded. But members of the organization Friends of Sonoita Creek (FOSC) and Peter Stacey, a professor at the University of New Mexico specializing in streams in the southwest, discovered that above the waterfall – technically referred to as a “head cut,” meaning an abrupt vertical drop caused by erosion – the water slowly meanders through multiple branches level with the ground.
Stacey explained in a phone conversation that in his 20 years of field work across the southwest he’s only seen a handful of streams – including this portion of Sonoita Creek – “functioning the way it used to ... before humans had an impact on it.”
“It’s extremely rare,” he said. “It’s an example of what all of us are shooting for when we do restoration work.”
On Tuesday morning, the Patagonia-based FOSC led a group of people to observe the differences above and below the head cut. The excursion also included a demonstration of stream monitoring techniques and discussion of efforts to preserve the pristine section of the creek, reverse existing erosion and prevent further damage to ensure that the stream continues as a source of groundwater.
Kathy West, a 61-year-old retiree from Patagonia, described the lower portion of the creek as a “muddy mess.” Above the head cut, she said, “It was a little bit wilder up here and the stream was wider and it was very, very scenic.”
“It’s what it should be,” West said, noting that she could see bugs and flowers growing near the upper portion of the stream. (...)
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