Pima County’s Regional Flood Control District has partnered with the Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department to restore a 2.5 acrepond at Historic Canoa Ranch in Green Valley, part of a master plan that should see the return of birding, native plants and wildlife viewing.
Contractors working with the Regional Flood Control District began work excavating, re-shaping, and lining the pond in October and last week completed the required inlet structures. NRPR staff installed the pipeline from the well to the pond and has worked with a well contractor to finish pump and wellhead completion in order to allow water to begin flowing. It is expected that the pond will be filled to its design capacity by early January 2018.
Back in 1921, Howell Manning Jr. created the original lake of five acres as part of an extensive irrigation system supporting the family’s ranching business, which included raising pure-bred Hereford cattle, Arabian and Clydesdale horses.
The restoration is the first phase of a larger habitat restoration project being implemented as part of the Board of Supervisors-approved Canoa Ranch Master Plan. Phase 2 will restore about 30 acres of riparian and grassland habitat on the overbank of the Santa Cruz River adjacent to the ranch complex. Water infrastructure for the project includes refurbishing a well on the ranch property, construction of the pond and an irrigation system serving the 30 acres of habitat restoration.
The irrigation pond is being lined using a polymer mixed into the soil to minimize leakage, according to Carla Danforth, environmental planning manager with the Flood Control District and project manager for the Canoa pond restoration.
“The mix-in method allows for a more aesthetically pleasing pond and reduces construction and future maintenance costs,” Danforth said.
The 30 acres of old agricultural fields on the floodplain terrace will be planted with native plants to recreate a mesquite woodland and riparian shrub and grassland community. A pollinator garden and wildlife water troughs will be incorporated into the project, which will feature water harvesting to supplement project irrigation needs and increase soil moisture to promote project sustainability.
“This project will improve the ecosystem, reduce invasive plants, increase wildlife habitat and provide connectivity to surrounding mountain ranges,” Danforth explained.
When completed, the new pond will provide residents and visitors to the ranch with recreational opportunities, particularly birding and wild lifeviewing. Other features to be added around the pond in the coming months include native trees and shrubs for increased wildlife habitat and shade, a perimeter walking path with benches and ramadas for shade and an area for small-scale special events. Eventually paths will connect the pond to the ranch complex, the habitat restoration area, pollinator garden, the Anza Trail, and the river.
According to Chris Cawein, Director of NRPR, the re-establishment of the historic lake at Canoa Ranch is one of an on-going series of steps in restoring this site for the benefit of residents of Pima County as well as visitors. Much of the restoration conducted to date at the site has focused exclusively on historical and cultural preservation activities. While the pond restoration is also of historical significance, once completed, it will dramatically increase the recreational and ecological values of the site as well.
In 2001, Pima County purchased and began to restore the 4,800-acre Canoa Ranch complex with voter-approved 1997 and 2004 bond funds. Pima County opened the ranch headquarters to the public in March 2013.
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