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KFOX14 Investigates: IBWC says 8,000 new trees not dying in Upper Valley

IBWC says 8,000 new trees not dying in Upper Valley.

Neighbors in the upper valley say they're concerned about dying trees along the Rio Grande

KFOX14 Investigates got answers from the International Boundary and Water Commission.

Eight thousand new trees were just planted along the Rio Grande as part of a major restoration project.

Viewers reached out to KFOX14 Investigates, concerned the trees and investment are dead.

“Bringing the river back to the way it used to be,” said natural resource specialist Elizabeth Verdecchia with the International Boundary and Water Commission. She said the project is focused on establishing a habitat for endangered species.

“Cottonwood trees are really good for a variety of wildlife,” said Verdecchia.

Some neighbors tell KFOX14 Investigates they're concerned, the trees are endangered.

“We have cottonwoods that have mixed results,” said Verdecchia.

IBWC said in total the 8,000 trees planted in March and April cost about $35,000.

“This tree has a little bit of heat stress; he’s sprouting so he should make it OK,” said Verdecchia.

There was a short delay in planting the trees.

“The contractor had to remove the nonnative plants before they could begin planting,” she said. Verdecchia doesn't believe that's what’s causing the stress.

“I think it’s mostly just the heat,” said Verdecchia.

We went out to the riverbed, to see the trees for ourselves.

“This one is stressed. It was blooming in March and it's stressed,” said Verdecchia

While some of the trees appear to be flourishing others are struggling and perhaps to the general public the trees' health is questionable.

“It’s a little hard to tell if they are alive or dead,” said Verdecchia.

Verdecchia said they're not dead. In fact, there’s more than meets the eye.

The trees are 10-12 feet tall and planted in groundwater, so a majority of the tree is underground.

So even if the top of the tree appears to be in distress, the rest of the tree may be very healthy.

“Underneath the ground is the main part of the tree at least 8 feet below us and that’s where there’s water and that’s where they are getting roots,” said Verdecchia.

The contractor is responsible for monitoring the health of the trees quarterly.

There is a provision in the contract in which the contractor may have to replace the trees that don't survive

“If more than 15 percent die, than they have to replace the equivalent of that, if 50 percent of the trees die they have to replace 50 percent,” said Verdecchia.

Verdecchia says in October they'll determine the trees' survival rate.

“The provision is in there so the contractor has a motivation to take care of the trees,” said Verdecchia.

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