Wetlands forming in San Benito

SAN BENITO — The city is making headway on the wetlands.

Jaime Flores is the coordinator and project manager for the Arroyo Colorado Watershed Partnership and stopped by to share his knowledge with the business community during the “Coffee with” event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. He talked about the current project to turn the old sewer ponds into wetlands.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems with beneficial services for people and wildlife such as protecting and improving water quality and storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods.

The multi-phase project is seven years in the making and is a response to the $3 million fine the city was charged by the state for discharging inadequately treated sewer water into the Arroyo Colorado in 2005.

“The ultimate goal is to keep the Arroyo Colorado clean,” Flores said.

Phase two of the project needs to be done by the end of the month or they lose their funding, he said.

The Mercedes native said he will be around for at least another year to help with the next phase of the project.

“I really enjoyed working on the city with this project,” Flores said. “It has a lot of benefits to it.”

Ponds that measure deeper than 5 feet have the possibility of growing catfish and bass.

Flores said this could open up a kids fishing day in the coming years.

“Fill everything up, let it grow for about two or three years and have a fish day,” Flores said.

The wetlands would work as a type of living classroom for students with potential for field trips.

Flores said students would have the chance to learn how to test water and learn about the wildlife and the ecosystems in the wetlands.

He said he is working with the master gardeners, the naturalists and the city to create signs to identify different species of birds.

“These signs will be instrumental in helping with the birding festivals,” Flores said.

The group will be on location Saturday to plant trees and clean up the area.

What is a wetland?

Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.