FARMINGTON — Gov. Susana Martinez announced Friday that $645,150 will be spent removing invasive plants along San Juan County's Animas and San Juan rivers as part of a statewide watershed restoration package.
The package sets aside $6.2 million to reduce fuel sources in watersheds around New Mexico to reduce the possibility of forest fires and improve ecosystem health, New Mexico State Forestry Director Tony Delfin said during a phone interview on Friday that included Martinez.
"We're trying to be proactive instead of reactive," Martinez said.
In the county, the funds will be used to hire workers to remove invasive plants, such as Russian olive and salt cedar, along a total of 50 miles of the San Juan River and 20 miles of the Animas River, according to state documents.
The project is estimated to create about 15 jobs, according to state projections.
Delfin said he hopes crews will begin work in the fall and complete the project two years later.
Seven other counties received funding for watershed restoration, according to a press release. Sandoval County got $210,987 to thin overstocked forests in the area of the Thompson Ridge Fire, and other projects are designed to improve watershed health by restoring woodland vegetation.
The funds are part of the 2014 capital infrastructure legislation, which Martinez signed into law, the press release states.
State Attorney General Gary King, Martinez's Democratic challenger for governor, said his office's consumer protection fund contributed about $9 million to the Interstate Stream Commission, an agency that investigates, protects and develops state waters.
He said Martinez can't take all the credit for the state-wide watershed restoration.
"We're going to see Gov. Martinez acting like Santa Claus for the next six months," he said.