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Securing Arizona's Water Future

Central Highlands Planning Area Environmental Conditions - Water Protection Fund, Instream Flow and Threatened and Endangered Species

Discussed in the Environmental Conditios section is vegetation, riparian protection through the Arizona Water Protection Fund Program, instream flow claims, threatened and endangered species, protected public lands and unique waters.

Arizona Water Protection Fund Programs

The objective of the Arizona Water Protection Fund (AWPF) program is to provide funds for protection and restoration of Arizona’s rivers and streams and associated riparian habitats.  Twenty-eight riparian restoration projects in the Central Highlands Planning Area have been funded by the AWPF through 2008.  Nineteen of these projects were funded in the Verde River Basin, primarily involving research, fencing and stream restoration on the Verde River.  Four projects were funded in the Salt River Basin including restoration projects on Cherry Creek, Canyon Creek and at Lofer Cienega.  Two stream restoration projects in the Agua Fria Basin on Ash Creek and Lynx Creek, and an erosion research and fencing and revegetation project in Dakini Valley in the Tonto Creek Basin have also been funded.  In the Upper Hassayampa Basin, one project has been funded involving a constructed wetland.  A list of projects and project types funded in the Central Highlands Planning Area through 2008 is found in Appendix A of this volume.  A description of the program, a complete listing of all projects funded, and a reference map is found in Volume 1. 

Instream Flow Claims

An instream flow water right is a non-diversionary appropriation of surface water for recreation and wildlife use. An application to appropriate public water for instream flow purposes moves through a number of administrative steps culminating in the Department’s approval or rejection of the application. Streamflow measurement data, a study that substantiates the streamflow volume requested and quantifies the relationship between the claimed beneficial use(s) and the requested streamflow rates are required before the Department will issue a permit to appropriate. Following approval of a permit, the permit holder has four years to demonstrate that the instream flow right is being used in a manner consistent with the terms of the issued permit. After the permit holder submits proof of the appropriation, the Department issues the permit holder a Certificate of Water Right (CWR) with a priority date that relates back to the date of the application. A CWR evidences a perfected surface water right that is superior to all other surface water rights with a later priority date, but junior to all right with an earlier (older) priority date. All permits and certificates are for specific uses at specific places and are endorsed with the priority date and extent and purpose(s) of the right(s). The right must be beneficially used or it may be subject to abandonment and forfeiture.

Click to view Figure 5.0-12

Thirty-nine applications for instream flow claims have been filed in the Central Highlands Planning Area.  The applications are listed in Table 5.0-1 and shown on Figure 5.0-12.  Claims have been filed in all the basins in the planning area and 11 certificates have been issued. Certificates have been issued for claims on: Ash Creek in the Agua Fria Basin; Christopher Creek in the Tonto Creek Basin; the East Verde River, Spring Creek, Sycamore Creek (near Sunflower), the Verde River, West Clear Creek and Wet Beaver Creek in the Verde River Basin; the Hassayampa River in the Upper Hassayampa River Basin; and Pinto Creek and Reynolds Creek in the Salt River Basin.  Some of the certificates cover extensive reaches of the streams as shown on Figure 5.0-12.

Threatened and Endangered Species

A number of listed threatened and endangered species may be present in the Central Highlands Planning Area. Those listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as of 2008 are shown in Table 5.0-2.  Presence of a listed species may be a critical consideration in water resource management and supply development in a particular area.  The USFWS should be contacted for details regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA), designated critical habitat and current listings.

Roosevelt Lake

Roosevelt Lake

In the Salt River watershed, SRP has developed the Roosevelt Habitat Conservation Plan (Plan) to minimize and mitigate the impacts of operation of Roosevelt Dam and Lake to the southwestern willow flycatcher, bald eagle, Yuma clapper rail and western yellow-billed cuckoo (a candidate for ESA protection).  Under the plan, SRP will acquire and protect at least 1,500 acres of riparian habitat in perpetuity along the San Pedro, Verde, and Gila rivers, or other river systems in Arizona, and implement other conservation measures to protect up to 750 additional acres of habitat. 

The Plan also includes rescue of bald eagle eggs and nestlings whose nests are threatened by inundation, monitoring of the species and habitat at Roosevelt Lake and in the mitigation areas, and other measures.  Following SRPs commitment to implementation of the Plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a 50-year permit to SRP to “take” endangered southwestern willow flycatchers, threatened bald eagles, endangered Yuma clapper rails and yellow-billed cuckoos incidental to operation of Roosevelt Dam and Lake.5  (USFWS, 2003)

A habitat conservation plan (HCP) has also been adopted for Horseshoe and Bartlett reservoirs on the Verde River. Drought conditions resulted in establishment of riparian species in the Horseshoe storage space that became colonized by a population of southwestern willow flycatchers and other covered species that may be adversely impacted by refilling the reservoir. The HCP will minimize and mitigate for take of the covered species by operating Horseshoe to maintain the riparian forest, acquiring 200 acres of replacement habitat and other actions (73 Federal Register 62525 et seq.).

 

 

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References and Supplemental Reading for the Central Highlands Planning Area Overview

Colorado River Central Highlands Planning Area Download entire Central Highlands Planning Area Atlas in pdf Verde River Lake Pleasant