ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque Bernalillo Water Utility Authority is looking to help save endangered, native birds and fish, like the silvery minnow, by helping preserve the Bosque. The water authority wants to build new habitats along the river and give people better access too.

The Water Authority’s wastewater treatment plant outfall is the area where all the treated wastewater of Albuquerque flows back into the Rio Grande. It’s also the site where they want to start a conservation project.

“We’re trying to take advantage of this really nice resource of clear nutrient-rich water and use it to benefit the ecosystem in the area,” said Kelsey Bicknell, environmental manager for the Water Authority.

The Water Authority is asking the state for more than $300,000.

“Part of it will go to lowering the banks of the river so that this water can interact and flow over the floodplain of the river and benefit endangered species. The other part of the money will go to planting native vegetation to benefit the local riparian community of the birds and other species that live in this area,” Bicknell said.

Bicknell explained the riverbanks are suffering from a type of erosion that dries up the wetlands as the water table drops. They want to create a terraced riverbank, so when there is flooding in the Rio Grande, the water will rush up and create habitats — like nursery areas for fish and feeding and nesting areas for native birds.

“The specific species that we’re targeting with this project is the Rio Grande silvery minnow, which is very endangered and has been in the news recently. The other species that may benefit from this project are the Yellow-billed Cuckoo and the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher which are also native species and benefit from the riparian environment,” Bicknell claimed.

This project focuses on more than just the riverbanks; they’re also looking at putting in almost a mile of new trails along the Bosque. Bicknell said they’re still in the permitting process to get this project cleared and make sure no harm will come to the environment. Once they clear that hurdle, the project could get underway in the fall.

“That’ll look like crews going through to remove vegetation that’s not native for the area; they’ll clear that out and then we’ll bring in the dozers to start moving the sediment to create those terraced floodplains,” Bicknell explained.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be almost $3.2 million.