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Lower Colorado River Environmental Conditions - Arizona Water Protection Fund Program and Threatened and Endangered Species

Environmental conditions reflect the geography, climate and cultural activities in an area and may be a critical consideration in water resource management and development.  Discussed in this section is vegetation, protection of riparian areas through the Arizona Water Protection Fund Program, threatened and endangered species, public lands protected from development as national monuments, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas, and managed waters.  No instream flow claims (a non-diversionary appropriation of surface water for recreation and wildlife use) have been filed in this planning area.

Arizona Water Protection Fund Programs

The objective of the Arizona Water Protection Fund (AWPF) program is to provide grants for the protection and restoration of Arizona’s rivers and streams and associated riparian habitats.  Twelve restoration projects in the Lower Colorado River Planning Area had been funded by the AWPF through 2008.  Ten projects were funded in the Yuma Basin for wetland, habitat and watershed restoration, exotic species control, research and revegetation.  Two projects in the Parker Basin funded habitat restoration and revegetation and exotic species control.  A list of projects and project types funded in the Lower Colorado River Planning Area through 2008 are found in Appendix A.  A description of the program, a complete listing of all projects funded, and a reference map are found in Volume 1. 

Restoration along the Colorado River near Yuma

Restoration along the Colorado River near Yuma

Threatened and Endangered Species

A number of listed threatened and endangered species may be present in the Lower Colorado River Planning Area. Those listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as of 2008 are shown in Table 7.0-1.  Presence of a listed species may be a critical consideration in water resource management and development in a particular area.  The USFWS should be contacted for details regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA), designated critical habitat and current listings.

MSCP map

Figure 7.0-11 MSCP Reaches in the Lower Colorado River Planning Area

Actions related to operation of the Lower Colorado River water delivery and electrical power generation systems by both federal and non-federal entities may affect listed species and habitat or contribute to the listing of additional species in the future.  The ESA directs Federal agencies to support the conservation of listed threatened and endangered species and to make sure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species or result in adverse modification of critical habitat.  To comply with the requirements of the ESA, state and federal water, power and wildlife interests created the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (LCR MSCP). The LCR MSCP is a cooperative, Habitat Conservation Program that identifies specific measures to address the needs of 26 threatened, endangered and other species that rely on habitat associated with the lower Colorado River (USDOI, 2004).  Its purposes include: 1) protection of habitat while ensuring current river water and power operations; 2) addressing the needs of listed species under the ESA; and 3) reduction of the likelihood of listing additional species along the river (USBOR, 2007b).  LCR MSCP reaches 4-7 are within the planning area and their general location is shown in Figure 7.0-11.

The LCR MSCP also addresses compliance with the “take” provisions of the ESA. Incidental take of a listed species, as the result of carrying out an otherwise lawful activity, is not allowed without acquiring a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   The LCR MSCP documents the extent of the incidental take related to river operations and maintenance activities by both Federal and non-Federal entities and includes measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate the effect of the take (USDOI, 2004).5 

Implementation of the LCR MSCP began in 2005.  The program area extends from the full pool elevation of Lake Mead to the Southerly International Boundary with Mexico, a distance of 400 river miles and includes the historical floodplain of the Colorado River (USBOR, 2007b). The LCR MSCP is intended to serve as a coordinated and comprehensive conservation approach for a 50-year period and therefore includes measures for species not currently listed that may become listed in the future.  Implementation of the program is funded by a partnership of state, Federal and other public and private stakeholders in Arizona, California and Nevada.  The plan will create riparian, marsh and backwater habitat for six federally listed species and 20 other native species including conservation programs for razorback sucker and bonytail chub, both federally listed endangered species.

Historically the “Great Valley”, what is now known as the Palo Verde Valley in California and Cibola Valley from the Parker area downstream to Cibola Lake, supported an extensive riparian woodland ecosystem and this area is a focal area for conservation measures under the LCR MSCP.  Significant conservation measures intended to restore native riparian woodland habitats, once common along the lower Colorado River, have been implemented in Arizona at Cibola Valley Conservation Area (CVCA) in the Cibola Valley Irrigation and Drainage District, Cibola National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR), and Imperial National Wildlife Refuge (INWR).  Measures include planting cottonwood, willow, mesquite, and other seedlings to create habitat for riparian woodland obligate species at CVCA, CNWR, and INWR, creation of marsh habitat for Yuma clapper rail and California black rail at INWR, and creation of isolated refugia for razorback sucker and bonytail at INWR.  Investigations continue on the suitability of existing backwaters for conversion into habitat suitable for razorback sucker and bonytail. In addition, experimental habitat restoration measures have been implemented at the ‘Ahakhav Tribal Preserve on the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation.

Imperial pond pumps

MSCP Project, Imperial Ponds in the Imperial National Wildlife Refuge


water drop  Continue to Section 7.0.4 Environmental Conditions - Protected Areas and Managed Waters


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