LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Las Cruces city leaders along with members of the Army Corps of Engineers broke ground on a $1.6 million dollar restoration project for the Las Cruces Dam Thursday afternoon.
The project will benefit wildlife in the area with addition of a 2-acre wetland, more than 6 acres of cottonwood trees, playa habitats and 72 acres of Chihuahuan Desert riparian habitat.
"We are looking at restoring about 100 acres of habitat," said Alicia Austin Johnson, project manager with the Army Corps of Engineers.
The dam was built in 1975 to help control water flow from the Organ Mountains through a series of arroyos.
With diverse wildlife already in the area, avid birdwatcher Nancy Stotz said the new habitats are only going to bring in more species of bird.
"During migration birds need to find food and shelter and water and we are going to have more birds coming in and using this area," Stotz said.
The wetlands are designed to use reclaimed water processed by the city and storm water during the rainy season.
"If you make smart use of that storm water and allow it to help cultivate plants that create habitats for wildlife, you can very quickly have both the wildlife and recreational opportunities," Stotz said.
The project will also feature area for educational opportunities with telescopes to view wildlife.
In addition, trails will be improved for jogging and bicycling.
Even though the dam is owned by the city, the Army Corps of Engineers will keep an eye on the habitats to make sure they thrive.
"We'll be monitoring the project for up to ten years afterwards just to make sure that those habitats really survive," Johnson said.
The project is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2014.
Johnson added residents are asked to obey construction signs and stay away from construction zones during the building of the project.