From Colorado Mesa University:
Float along the Colorado River between vineyards and orchards in a section of the 15-mile reach of critical habitat for 4 species of endangered fish.
To Register, click here.
From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently designated critical habitat for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher in portions of the San Luis Valley totaling 27 miles and nine miles along the uppermost portion of New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir, one of the main storage facilities for the Rio Grande Compact. Murphy said the Colorado and New Mexico designations were essential to the recovery of the species, which has been on the federal endangered species list since 1995. Commissioners expressed concern the designations would affect compact administration. Murphy indicated the designations should not affect water administration along the Rio Grande [ed. emphasis mine].
In the engineer advisers’ report to the compact commission on Thursday, Colorado’s Engineer Adviser and Colorado Division 3 Engineer Craig Cotten read into the record the advisers’ report, which included the concern the Elephant Butte Reservoir flycatcher designation could impact about one million acre feet of reservoir storage. “Information presented by the [Fish and Wildlife] Service and [Bureau of] Reclamation relating to the impacts of the designation upon reservoir operations was inconclusive,” Cotten read from the engineer advisers’ report. “The engineer advisers are concerned about impacts from the designation on certain elements of the Rio Grande Compact, and to water operations, including supplies at Elephant Butte Reservoir.”
Colorado Commissioner and State Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources Dick Wolfe questioned Murphy why areas in the San Luis Valley had been designated critical habitat for the flycatcher since members of the water community had worked for many years developing a habitat conservation plan (HCP) precluding the need for that designation. Wolfe said the Fish and Wildlife Service had been involved in the habitat conservation plan process and had approved it. “In approving that HCP the service recognized that HCP would provide continued protection to the flycatcher habitat,” Wolfe said. He added there are already more flycatcher pairs in the Valley than the habitat recovery plan calls for. He said 56 flycatcher territories were estimated in this area, and the FWS goal was 50, so he did not see the need for additional critical habitat designation.
Murphy said the goal of designating critical habitat for endangered species like the Southwestern willow flycatcher is to ensure their survival and recovery. He said an area that might not contain the species might be designated because of its connectivity to other habitats along the river corridor. The flycatcher habitat is unique, he said, in that this the only bird that nests in shrubs and trees with branches that are vertically oriented like the willows and saltcedar (tamarisk.)
Texas Commissioner Pat Gordon asked Murphy about the nine miles of critical habitat near Elephant Butte that was designated in January. Murphy said the Elephant Butte habitat “is not only significant to the Rio Grande Basin, it’s significant to the population as a whole. What we look at is an area that is essential to the survival of the species knowing that periodic inundation will occur and we feel that is probably beneficial to flycatcher habitat over the long run, but we could not ignore the fact that there are a significant number of territories there with high productivity levels.”
Murphy said when he moved to New Mexico in 1999 Elephant Butte Reservoir was nearly full, and it stayed that way for quite awhile. When the water levels receded in the reservoir, habitat appeared for the flycatchers, which took advantage of it and experienced a rebounding in their population as a result…
Water commissioners have reason to be concerned over endangered species’ effect on water administration, given the ongoing challenge to keep enough water in New Mexico’s rivers to sustain the Rio Grande Silvery minnows, another endangered species. “The Rio Grande Silvery minnows are at an all-time low,” Murphy reported to the Rio Grande Compact Commission. Last year 51 miles of the main channel of the Middle Rio Grande dried up, so the FWS undertook a salvage operation in which more than 4,200 silvery minnows were salvaged and relocated.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
A federal wildlife manager assured Colorado officials Thursday that the protection of habitat for an endangered bird would not lead to demands on the state to relinquish water.
In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher along 23 miles of the Rio Grande and a 2.9mile stretch of the Conejos River. “The designation itself does not affect water delivery or water users,” Wally Murphy, who oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s protection of endangered species in New Mexico, told the Rio Grande Compact Commission.
San Luis Valley water officials had been alarmed by the January designation after spending years working on a habitat conservation plan to protect the bird’s habitat on private land in the valley. The service excluded 114 miles of private stream bank along the Conejos and Rio Grande that were covered in the conservation plan.
But State Engineer Dick Wolfe, who represents Colorado on the commission, pressed Murphy on whether the operations of Platoro Reservoir or the Closed Basin Project might be impacted. “Habitat is ultimately driven by water to some extent so it seems like there is a nexus there,” Wolfe said.
Murphy said there would be no call for water. Platoro, which has a capacity of 59,000 acre-feet and sits near the Continental Divide, provides flood control and irrigation water for farmers and ranchers along the Conejos. The Closed Basin Project draws groundwater from the northeast corner of the valley and sends it downstream to assist with Colorado’s requirements under the compact.
Here’s the release from Living Rivers (John Weisheit):
Just two months after Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar opened the jet tubes at Glen Canyon Dam, launching a five-day (24-hour peak) controlled flood into Grand Canyon, the results are in and they are not positive.
During today’s Annual Reporting Review for the Grand Canyon Adaptive Management Program’s Technical Working Group, representatives from the Glen Canyon Monitoring and Research Center reported:
Just 55% of the target beaches showed improvements, while 36% remained the same and 9% were worse off. 25% of the sediment scientists had hoped to mobilize and distribute with the flood never moved. No evidence of improved nursery habitat for native fish. Nothing is stopping the long-term erosion of sediment from Grand Canyon’s river corridor.
“Ken Salazar claimed that this was going to be ‘A milestone in the history of the Colorado River’, but like the three previous experiments in 1996, 2004 and 2008, it too has shown that at best some beaches are temporarily improved, but the long-term prognosis for the Grand Canyon is a system without sediment,” says Living Rivers Conservation Director John Weisheit
Since 1963, 95% of sediment inflows to Grand Canyon National Park’s river corridor have been trapped behind Glen Canyon Dam. This has completely transformed habitat conditions for Grand Canyon native fish, leading to the extinction of the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail chub and roundtail chub, and the endangerment of the humpback chub.
The November 19th 2012 flood is the first to occur in a ten-year time window that scientist have been granted to experiment with Glen Canyon Dam operations. Additional controlled floods can be attempted if certain conditions are met, mainly the existence of large amounts of sediment entering the Colorado RIver from two tributary rivers that feed into the upper part of Grand Canyon, the Paria and Little Colorado.
“Far too much public time and money is wasted on preparing for, publicizing, executing and monitoring these useless floods that do nothing but perpetuate a science welfare program masquerading as an endangered species recovery effort,” adds Weisheit. “Scientist know, but won’t publicly state, that the only real solution to addressing Grand Canyon’s sediment deficit is to transport it around Glen Canyon Dam or decommission the dam altogether.”
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
As the House and Senate wrangled over the fiscal cliff, Democrats and Republicans found agreement on the four endangered fish of the Colorado River. The Senate on Monday unanimously approved a measure reauthorizing the recovery program for four species of endangered fish in the Colorado River basin. Once it’s signed by President Barack Obama, the measure will remove a “significant uncertainty” for water users in the basin, said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
The recovery program allows for the continued development of the river and its tributaries for irrigation, storage and other uses with the cooperation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state officials and other agencies.
“This is milestone legislation that ensures western Colorado’s two endangered fish recovery programs continue to shield present and future water users from the worst consequences of the Endangered Species Act,” Treese said.
Reauthorization clears the way for $25 million in spending on efforts to restore populations of the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and the bonytail. Extending the authorization for the Upper Colorado and San Juan fish recovery programs includes reforms to reduce overhead costs and eliminate inefficient agency spending to ensure the success of the programs while minimizing the taxpayer investment, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., a cosponsor of the measure, H.R. 6060, said in a statement. He also said he was “optimistic that these programs can reach their goals in the coming years, recover the species at issue, and safeguard the economic well-being of our communities and jobs connected to these efforts.”
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said the measure, which he co-sponsored in the Senate, is “welcome news for Colorado’s rivers, wildlife, sportsmen and our economy.”
Extending the recovery program will ensure that hundreds of water projects in Colorado and other Western states will remain in compliance with federal law, Udall said.
The recovery program operates several facilities in the Grand Valley, including fish ladders on the Gunnison River south of Grand Junction and on the Colorado River in De Beque Canyon, recovery ponds in Horsethief Canyon and a fish passage at the mouth of De Beque Canyon.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
Here’s the ruling from the USFWS published in the Federal Register:
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), designate revised critical habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) (flycatcher) under the Endangered Species Act. In total, approximately 1,975 stream kilometers (1,227 stream miles) are being designated as critical habitat. These areas are designated as stream segments, with the lateral extent including the riparian areas and streams that occur within the 100-year floodplain or flood-prone areas encompassing a total area of approximately 84,569 hectares (208,973 acres). The critical habitat is located on a combination of Federal, State, tribal, and private lands in Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura Counties in California; Clark, Lincoln, and Nye Counties in southern Nevada; Kane, San Juan, and Washington Counties in southern Utah; Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, and La Plata Counties in southern Colorado [ed. emphasis mine]; Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, and Yavapai Counties in Arizona; and Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, Mora, Rio Arriba, Socorro, Taos, and Valencia Counties in New Mexico. The effect of this regulation is to conserve the flycatcher’s habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
The designation covers about 208,000 acres of riparian habitat along 1,227 miles of rivers and streams in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Some of the critical habitat is along the banks of well-known rivers, including the Rio Grande, Gila, Virgin, Santa Ana and San Diego.
The flycatcher is a small, neotropical, migrant bird that breeds in streamside forests. It was first listed as endangered in 1995 in response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Protection of critical habitat for this tiny, unique bird could make a crucial difference to its survival, and also gives urgently needed help to the Southwest’s beleaguered rivers,” said Noah Greenwald, the Center’s endangered species director. “For all of us who love our desert rivers, this protection is great news.”
The USFWS initially designated 599 miles of riverside habitat in 1997 but was challenged by the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. That led to a revised designation in 2007 that protected more stream miles.
But that was not enough to ensure recovery of the species, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which challenged the rule, pointing out that it failed to consider hundreds of miles of rivers identified in a scientific recovery plan for the flycatcher.
“Like so many desert plants and animals, southwestern willow flycatchers have suffered from the wanton destruction of rivers by livestock grazing, mining, urban sprawl and overuse,” Greenwald said. “We have to take better care of our rivers.
This week’s designation still excludes hundreds of miles of river habitat that was identified in 2011 plan. Greenwald said his organization will take a close look at these the exclusions to determine if the recovery of the flycatcher was properly considered.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
Federal wildlife officials designated just over 9,000 acres in the San Luis Valley Tuesday as critical habitat for the southwestern willow flycatcher. While the move excluded all of the endangered bird’s habitat on private and stateowned land, it designated an 11.4 mile stretch of the Rio Grande through the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and another 12.7 mile segment that sits downstream under Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction.
The bird, which also received habitat protection from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in five other southwestern states, makes its home in the dense streamside cover often provided by willows, cottonwood trees and tamarisk.
Mike Blenden, who oversees the Alamosa refuge for the service, said the designation would change little about how the refuge is operated but added that activities such as ditch cleaning and prescribed burning would involve more discussion with others in the agency.
Likewise, Denise Adamic, a BLM spokeswoman, said little would change for how the agency manages its land along the Rio Grande, save for a stricter consultation process with the service to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
The official rule designating the habitat said 11 miles on the Rio Grande and 64 miles on the Conejos River were excluded because of work by the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and other local governments to set up a conservation plan for the bird.
The ruling also noted that the flycatcher’s habitat had benefited from the establishment of conservation easements on nearly 9,000 acres of private land lining the Rio Grande and Conejos.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
From the Kearney Hub (Lori Porter):
Large, yellow earth movers circled 180 acres of land southeast of Kearney between the north and main channels of the Platte River, sculpting shallow depressions that will be seeded with wetland plants and, it’s hoped, be filled by spring rains. The goal in this initial “pothole” project is to create habitat attractive to endangered whooping cranes that migrate through the Central Platte Valley. The hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes that make an annual late winter-early spring mid-migration stop also should like the wetland conditions, said Bruce Sackett, land specialist for the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. Ducks, geese and small shorebirds also may visit the site, he added. To the south, along the river’s main channel, 300 acres have been seeded to grass that Sackett said needs moisture now to thrive next year.
Both habitat restoration projects are part of an effort to manage 10,000 acres of habitat for threatened and endangered birds — least terms and piping plovers are the other two target species — for the first 13-year increment of a plan to put the entire Platte Basin into Endangered Species Act compliance.
The other major component of the program involving the U.S. Department of Interior, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska is to reduce Platte River streamflow depletions. A successful program will allow all federally licensed or permitted entities within the three states, including Nebraska Public Power District and Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, to comply with the ESA. Otherwise, each project would have to have comply on its own.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (R. Scott Rappold):
Last week, attorneys for the environmental group and the Forest Service signed a settlement, with the agency agreeing to ban dirt bikes on trails 665, 668, 701 and 720 and part of trail 667. Officials agreed to install signs and barriers within 10 days of the court approving the settlement and to keep the trails closed until an ongoing watershed assessment is complete. They also agreed to get approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before reopening the trails to vehicles.
But Monday, U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane rejected the settlement. At issue is a provision saying if there is a dispute over the implementation of the document, neither side can be found in contempt of court. The judge ruled that provision exceeds the authority of the two sides and could lead to them not reporting violations of the court order.
Tim Ream, attorney for the environmental group, called it a “very esoteric point” and said negotiations continue on reworking the settlement.
Dirt bike groups, who have funded and carried out maintenance work on the trails for years, have blasted the lawsuit as unfairly singling out dirt bike riders from hikers, mountain bike riders and others they say also impact the creek.
“We are not satisfied with the process to date,” said Don Riggle, president of the Colorado Springs-based Trails Preservation Alliance. His is one of three groups representing motorized vehicle riders that have joined the lawsuit as intervenors.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has started work on a construction project to install a long-sought fish screen in Rifle Creek and officials say it will be complete and operational by spring of 2013. Fed by Rifle Gap Reservoir, the creek is a tributary to the Colorado River and is located northeast of the city of Rifle.
Partners involved in the project include Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Silt Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. A majority of the funding for the project came from sportsmen’s dollars, generated from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses.
Once it is functioning under all expected operating conditions, the screen will prevent non-native fish that have escaped from Rifle Gap Reservoir and into Rifle Creek from progressing downstream to the Colorado River where they can be harmful to native fish populations.
“This is a win-win project all the way around; we are protecting native fish populations downstream, while simultaneously having the opportunity to improve a combination, cool-warmwater fishery within Rifle Gap Reservoir,” said Lori Martin, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the northwest region. “We are answering the call of our anglers who are seeking more warmwater fishing opportunities but also keeping in mind the concerns of our partners within the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.”
The Recovery Program is a multi-state and multi-agency effort headed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with a goal to recover four, endangered fish found only in the Upper Colorado River system – the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail chub, and humpback chub.
Brent Uilenberg of the Bureau of Reclamation agreed that the project would help both sport fishing and endangered fish downstream. Uilenberg says that the project will not affect reservoir operations and water supplies.
According to the USFWS, the 100-year floodplain of the Colorado River – downstream from the bridge over Interstate 70, at exit 90 – is critical habitat for the Colorado pikeminnow and the razorback sucker.
Current recovery efforts include removing non-native predators from sections of the upper Colorado River system, and preventing escapement from lakes and reservoirs where non-natives are thriving, often with the use of fish screens.
The existing cool-warmwater fishery of smallmouth bass and walleye in Rifle Gap Reservoir has been self-sustaining since the 1960s when the former Colorado Division of Wildlife stocked both species, prior to the inception of the recovery program. Currently, trout are the only fish that can be legally stocked into Rifle Gap Reservoir.
After the fish screen is in place, Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers will begin drafting a new, lake management plan for Rifle Gap Reservoir before submitting it to the USFWS and other Recovery Program partners for final approval.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife gathered initial input for fishery management within Rifle Gap Reservoir, including the installation of the fish screen, during a public meeting held in August 2010. The agency plans additional meetings in the coming months to provide the public with additional opportunities for input as the agency drafts the final lake management plan.
Warmwater fishing has become increasingly popular in western Colorado; however, opportunities are currently limited due to concerns with the threat that some non-native fish species can pose to native fishes.
Despite those concerns, state wildlife officials continue to look for effective ways, including the installation and maintenance of approved fish screens, to satisfy angler’s requests for additional warmwater fishing without compromising native fish recovery efforts.
“Coldwater fisheries in western Colorado are famous world-wide,” said Sherman Hebein, senior aquatic biologist in the northwest region. “But we also have a core of dedicated anglers that appreciate warmwater alternatives and we are working hard to provide them as much opportunity as we are able, given some of the obstacles and limitations we must take into consideration.”
More coverage from Dave Buchanan writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:
An expanded fishery at Rifle Gap Reservoir got another step closer when Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently began construction of a fish screen in Rifle Creek below the reservoir. The screen, which is expected to be operational by next spring, will prevent non-native fish that may escape the reservoir from going down Rifle Creek to the Colorado River where the non-native fishes might harm native fishes.
It’s all part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery program and the only way the state legally could stock and manage non-native warmwater fish in Rifle Gap. “This is a win-win project all the way around,” said Lori Martin, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We are protecting native fish populations downstream, while simultaneously having the opportunity to improve a combination, cool-warmwater fishery within Rifle Gap Reservoir.”
Martin said the agency is responding to anglers seeking more diversity while also adhering to the tenets of the endangered fish recovery program. ￼Partners involved in the screen project include Parks and Wildlife, the Silt Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
A majority of the funding for the project came from funds generated from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses. Total dollar amounts were not available this week from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The existing smallmouth bass and walleye fishery in Rifle Gap Reservoir has been self-sustaining since the 1960s when the then-Division of Wildlife stocked both species, prior to the inception of the recovery program. However, the recovery program mandates only trout can be legally stocked into Rifle Gap Reservoir. After the fish screen is in place, and a new lake management plan has been approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service and other recovery program partners, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be able to stock and actively manage such fish as smallmouth bass and walleye.
The recovery program is a multi-state, multi-agency effort headed by the Fish and Wildlife Service with the goal of recovering four endangered fish found only in the Upper Colorado River system — the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail chub, and humpback chub. Current recovery efforts include removing non-native predators from sections of the upper Colorado River system, including stretches of river in and around Grand Junction where state and federal crews have been working for several years. The recovery program also includes building ponds for raising native fish, such as those recently finished along the Colorado River south of Fruita.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
Bill Geer believes climate change will dramatically change life for fish and big game and the sportsmen who love them. But the former director of the Utah Fish and Game Department didn’t ask the more than 70 people he spoke to Thursday night to back a policy or a political candidate.
Instead, Geer, who now works on climate change issues for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, presented the impacts species have suffered. The partnership’s research found that spring runoff in Colorado has become more erratic and the precipitation regime now includes a greater amount of rain than snow. And it sited a U.S. Geological Survey study that found snowpack in the Rocky Mountains since the 1980s has seen the biggest decline in history. Earlier runoff has made life tough for fish in Colorado’s mountain streams, particularly in August when dwindling stream flows and higher water temperatures can kill fish. Geer’s presentation focused on the dangers those conditions pose to Colorado River cutthroat trout in the northwestern part of the state. His talk did not focus on the Rio Grande basin.
But Jon Harp, the owner of Conejos River Anglers, echoed the concerns with late summer conditions. “There’s no question that the last 10 or 15 years it always seems to be an issue,” he said. Harp, who guides anglers on streams all across the southern San Juan Mountains, said last year’s early runoff would have resulted in widespread fish kills come August had the month not seen steady rains. He said the trout population has seen its most consistent decline in the tributaries of the Conejos, such as the Rio de los Pinos and La Jara Creek, and the lower Chama River in New Mexico. “The los Pinos, if you look at it in May and June and July, it looks like a fantastic trout stream,” he said. “You go in August and it’s just a warm bath.”
But the conservation partnership’s information on elk yielded less clear conclusions. Beetle-killed trees and warmer temperatures in the state’s high-elevation forests will clear forest canopies and allow for more grass and forbs, which would benefit elk.
And while Geer told those who were convinced of climate change’s impacts that they should act, he held out another thought for the unconvinced. “One of the things we don’t know about climate change is where it stops,” he said.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Colorado’s only population of native greenback cutthroat trout got a measure of protection this week, as the U.S. Forest Service agreed to ban motorized use on several trails near Bear Creek to protect the small stream near Colorado Springs from sediment…
“We’re so glad the Forest Service agreed to do the right thing and protect the only place in the world where greenback cutthroat trout still live in the wild,” said attorney Tim Ream. “This endangered fish has been hanging on by a thread for decades. The last thing it needs is motorcycles tearing through its only home and filling the creek with sediment.”
A DNA study earlier this year determined that Bear Creek hosted the last pure and wild population of the fish. For years, though, off-road vehicles have been severely eroding Bear Creek Canyon’s steep slopes. The runoff harms water quality and is filling in deep pools that the fish use to hide from predators and survive winters and droughts.
From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:
The Forest Service will close the trails around Bear Creek in the Pike National Forest to settle a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity. The suit said erosion from motorcycles damages fish habitat.
More restoration/reclamation coverage here.
Protect The Flows (@ProtectFlows) November 19, 2012
Reclamation (@usbr) November 20, 2012
Here’s the release from Protect the Flows (Molly Mugglestone):
Today, the U.S. Department of the Interior triggered the first “high-flow experimental release” at Glen Canyon Dam since 2008.
According to Interior, the release, which will last nearly five days, is part of a new long-term protocol to meet water and power needs, allow better conservation of sediment downstream, and better control the non-native fish population from preying on other species. The high release flows are geared to mimic historical pre-dam spring floods and runoffs.
Protect the Flows member George Wendt, President and CEO of OARS Outdoor Adventure River Specialists, which has been providing Grand Canyon rafting experiences since 1969, made the following statement in response:
“The water released this week is the first in a long term plan that will help to build new camping beaches in the Grand Canyon, and ultimately, will improve the canyon experience for boaters supporting a $26 billion recreation economy that depends on the Colorado River. We applaud the Department of Interior for taking these important steps that take into consideration the long term use of the canyon by boaters. This release shows an attempt at good stewardship of the area and is an example of how the conservation community and those who love to recreate on the river worked together with the Department of Interior on a solution that both fish and rafters will benefit from for years to come.”
Here’s the release from the U.S. Department of Interior (Blake Androff/Lisa Iams):
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today triggered the first “high-flow experimental release” at Glen Canyon Dam, under a new experimental long-term protocol to better distribute sediment to conserve downstream resources, while meeting water and power needs and allowing continued scientific experimentation, data collection, and monitoring on the Colorado River.
The new protocol calls for experimental releases from the dam through 2020 to send sediment downstream to rebuild sandbars, beaches, and backwaters. The rebuilt areas will provide key wildlife habitat, enhance the aquatic food base, protect archeological sites, and create additional camping opportunities in the canyon.
“This is truly an historic milestone for the Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, and the United States Bureau of Reclamation,” said Salazar. “It was an honor to open the door to a new era for Glen Canyon Dam operations and the ecology of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park – a new era in which we realize that the goals of water storage, delivery and hydropower production are compatible with improving and protecting the resources of the Colorado River.”
The new protocol is built on more than 16 years of scientific research and experimentation conducted under the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program. The Department translated the research into a flexible framework that enables scientists to determine, based on the best available science, when the conditions are right to conduct these releases to maximize the ecosystem benefits along the Colorado River corridor in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon National Park.
With the Glen Canyon Powerplant running at full capacity, Secretary Salazar opened the river outlet tubes at noon, releasing additional flows that will increase throughout the day until a maximum release of approximately 42,300 cubic-feet-per-second is reached. These releases will continue for nearly five days based on the parameters specified in the protocol and the volume of sediment deposited by the Paria River since late July, which scientists estimate is approximately 500,000 metric tons, enough to fill a football field 230 feet deep.
Through the foundation laid by the protocol, annual experiments can be conducted through 2020 to evaluate the effectiveness of multiple high flow experimental (HFE) releases in rebuilding and conserving sandbars, beaches, and associated backwater habitats that have been lost or depleted since the dam’s construction and operation. The protocol identifies the conditions under which a high flow release will likely yield the greatest conservation and beneficial use of sediment deposited by inflows from Colorado River tributaries as a result of rainstorms, monsoons, and snowmelt.
“Favorable sediment conditions in the system only occur periodically, so the ability to respond quickly and make the best use of those deposits when the time is right is essential,” said Anne Castle, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. “Today’s experimental release under the new protocol represents a significant milestone in our collective ability to be nimble and responsive to on-the-ground conditions for the benefit of downstream resources.”
HFE releases simulate natural flood conditions that suspend and redeposit sand stored in the river channel to provide key wildlife habitat—including habitat for the endangered humpback chub, protect archaeological sites, enhance riparian vegetation, maintain or increase recreation opportunities, and improve the wilderness experience along the Colorado River in Glen and Grand canyons. Single experimental releases were conducted in 1996, 2004, and 2008, and included extensive scientific research, monitoring, and data collection by the U.S. Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
“These high-flow releases, a new paradigm in water management, recognize that there are hugely beneficial impacts to river ecology from releasing the requisite water needed downstream in large pulses, rather than uniformly throughout the year,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “In the arid West, non-uniform flow better mimics the natural environment in which the plants and animals flourished.”
This scientific process will continue and the knowledge gained from today’s experimental high flow will be used to make further refinements in determining the optimal timing, duration, frequency, and conditions for future releases as well as to inform other management actions on the river.
“As the 1992 Grand Canyon Protection Act emphasizes, the resources of the Grand Canyon are fragile, and conservation of those resources can only be achieved through wise management by today’s leaders,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Today’s event marks the beginning of the next generation of wisdom for managing this special place. We have only one Grand Canyon. We want to thank the Secretary for his leadership and conservation of this special place now and into the future.”
The protocol represents one of two important milestones in the history of the Colorado River. The second, a program to control non-native fish species, provides a framework for actions and research to protect native endangered fish in the river downstream of the dam. The finalization of both efforts involved extensive government-to-government consultation with Native American tribes to ensure implementation of the programs in a manner that respects tribal perspectives.
“The Bureau of Indian Affairs supports the cooperating tribes’ active involvement in the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “Many of their insights were incorporated into the process leading to the HFE event. Their strong connections to the Grand Canyon, including their cultural, historic and religious ties, give them a unique perspective on this national treasure. I want to thank the tribes for their long stewardship and their full participation in this important effort to conserve and protect the Colorado River ecosystem.”
The additional water released as part of the HFE is part of the annual water delivery to the Lake Mead. “The volume of water we are releasing during this high flow experiment does not change the overall volume of water delivery in the 2013 water year,” said Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor. “The current operations plan based on forecast data calls for releasing 8.23 million acre-feet of water from the dam to meet delivery obligations to the Lower Colorado River Basin and Mexico. The experimental flows are included in that total annual volume and will be offset by adjustments to the monthly release volumes throughout the rest of the water year.”
“This new protocol developed by Reclamation will protect both the Grand Canyon and the delivery of water for communities, agriculture and industry,” Salazar noted. “We are taking a practical approach. If, for any reason, the new high-flow experiments do not yield the positive results we anticipate, we have the ability to change and adjust future flows.”
In addition to the opportunities for HFE releases made possible under the protocol, Secretary Salazar has initiated the first comprehensive analysis of Glen Canyon Dam operations since 1996. The Glen Canyon Dam Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement will build on information obtained through the Adaptive Management Program and activities conducted under the protocol to analyze a broad scope of dam operations and other related activities. The goal is to determine specific alternatives that could be implemented to improve and protect downstream resources while adhering to applicable laws. Reclamation and the National Park Service are jointly developing the LTEMP EIS, which will ultimately integrate and further refine actions conducted under the protocol.
Here’s a technical description of what the USGS hopes to accomplish (Jack Schmidt/Barbara Wilcox). Here’s an excerpt:
“Throughout summer and fall 2012, the USGS research team developed, and continually revised, estimates of the total amount of sand and of mud delivered by the Paria River, as well as estimating the fate of that fine sediment as it was transported further downstream through the Grand Canyon,” said Jack Schmidt, chief of the USGS Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center. “These data are the scientific foundation on which the planned high-flow experiment is based. Without the estimates of the amount of sand and mud delivered from tributaries, it would not have been possible to implement the Protocol for these high flow experiments. The entire program of utilizing small controlled floods to rehabilitate the Grand Canyon ecosystem depends on state-of-the-science monitoring efforts by the USGS to measure sediment transport rates in real time and to provide those data to the Bureau of Reclamation and to other agencies.
“The USGS program of measuring and reporting sand and mud transport in real time and in such a challenging environment is unprecedented in the scientific management of rivers,” Schmidt said.
USGS data show that the Paria River delivered at least 593,000 tons of sand to the Colorado River between late July and the end of October 2012 – enough to fill a building the size of a 100-yard NFL football field about 24 stories high. Long-term measurements show that this amount is about 26 percent less than delivered by the Paria in an average year, but is still sufficient to trigger a small controlled flood intended to rehabilitate the downstream ecosystem.
From the Associated Press via Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar opened the river outlet tubes at noon and called it “an historic milestone” and “a new era in which we realize that the goals of water storage, delivery and hydropower production are compatible with improving and protecting the resources of the Colorado River.” The peak flow will last 24 hours from Monday night into Tuesday, and the river will run high for five days…
The experiment could hurt next year’s fishing – and complicate hydropower production and water storage – in the name of a more environmentally correct river…
Previous experiments in 1996, 2004 and 2008 were one-time fact-finding missions instead of fundamental shifts in river management.
“This (Obama) administration can be patted on the back and thanked for doing what we’ve been trying to do, seriously, for 15 years,” Lash added.
The previous experiments yielded mixed results, partly because a return to up-and-down flows timed partly to regional summer hydropower needs wiped out many of the new beaches and sandbars.
Advocates hope the effects will be longer lasting if these floods come more regularly and if a longer-term Interior Department planning effort leads to steadier flows through the summers.
But critics say that there’s little environmental benefit and that it comes at a cost.
In comments submitted to the Interior Department before the decision to go forward with regular flushes, the Colorado River Energy Distributors Association, a group of nonprofit energy utilities, noted that previous springtime flood experiments helped boost the population of non-native trout that feed on the endangered humpback chub.
Click here to download and/or read the report Water Woes: How dams, diversions, dirty water and droughts put America’s wildlife at risk from the Endangered Species Coalition. Here’s the introduction:
Water is as essential to us as the air we breathe. And water, in all its forms, may bring us a fundamental joy that is unmatched by other elements of nature. Whether it’s splashing in puddles, running through a sprinkler, diving into a swimming hole, whitewater rafting a powerful river, skiing down a majestic mountain, ice-skating on a local pond, or just listening to the rush of a waterfall, our collective childhood memories include many wonderful experiences of water.
While water blankets our planet, 97 percent of it is salty, and 2 percent is locked in snow and ice. Therefore, less than 1 percent is available as freshwater, stored in rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers. This freshwater is our lifeblood. We’ve settled along riverbanks, and used freshwater for our enjoyment, transportation, irrigation, fisheries, recreational tourism, energy production, and drinking water. In short, we’ve spread this indispensible resource thinly.
Though we have an unabashed love for water, we treat it with little respect. We use water as our dumping grounds—the pollution and runoff from our cities, industries and farms spills into our rivers and other freshwater sources. We’ve diverted, damned and drained our rivers, parching some of our greatest ones out of existence. Even the mighty Colorado River, though strong enough to carve out the Grand Canyon, has been no match for our intensive water consumption. Most years, it no longer reaches the sea. In fact, few of our rivers remain pristine.
And new man-made threats are bearing down on our freshwater resources. Climate change is expected to increase droughts. According to scientific models climate change combined with population growth will result in much of the United States experiencing issues with water scarcity by 2025. Meanwhile, as hydraulic fracturing (fracking) spreads, so does the potential for more dirty water. According to an Argonne National Laboratory report, our oil and gas wells produce at least nine billion liters of contaminated water per day.
For the country’s imperiled wildlife, these threats are severe. We’ve seen massive fish kills, closures of multi-million fisheries and even the extinctions of species in the wild. Fish no longer reach their spawning grounds, frogs suffer from chemicals seeping through their delicate skins, introduced plants choke native ones from their habitats, exotic aquatic species threaten native fish, and development threatens the stream-side homes of mammals and birds.
This report details the top ten water woes for endangered species. It describes how our water management—our dams, diversions, dirty water and droughts have imperiled America’s wildlife, birds, fish and plants. But this is also a report about hope—how those of us living with threatened and endangered species can take action to help.
Thanks to one of the strongest endangered species laws in the world, we continue to protect our natural heritage. And it is not too late to save our species; across the country, we can all do our part. Supporting the groups involved in this report and their work to protect wildlife, plants and habitats is important. Standing up for wildlife protections is essential. And at home, we can make a difference by eliminating any leaks in plumbing; by installing water-efficient toilets, showerheads, washing machines, and dishwashers; by planting native plants adapted to our local environment; by reducing or eliminating our lawns; and by installing rain barrels to capture storm water for watering the garden.
Join us in protecting our country’s incredible web of life.
Thanks to the Colorado News Connection (Kathleen Ryan) via the Ag Journal for the heads up. From the article:
Leda Huta, the executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition, explains why this report is so significant. “When we look at the country and what we’ve done to our fresh water resources, it’s frightening. Every animal has its role to play in the ecosystem.”
The report finds the bonytail chub is functionally extinct, while three other species – the Colorado pike minnow, the humpback chub and the razorback sucker – are all declining in population because of non-native invasions, declining water, and river pollution. Other creatures on the national list include salmon, antelope and mountain yellow-legged frogs.
Huta says the declining availability and quality of water comes at a time when the planet can expect to have less fresh water available because of global warming. “We will see more drought and water scarcities due to climate change that we’ve created and to having an increasing population, so those two together are going to have even greater impact on our fresh water.”
The report highlights things people can do to reduce their demand on fresh water, which makes up only 1 percent of the water on the planet. That includes landscaping with native plants, reducing the size of lawns, and using water-efficient appliances and toilets.
Update: Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Blake Androff/Lisa Iams):
The U.S. Department of the Interior will trigger the first “high-flow experimental release” at Glen Canyon Dam since 2008 on Monday, November 19. The release is part of a new long-term protocol announced in May by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to meet water and power needs, as well as to allow better conservation of sediment downstream, more targeted efforts to control non-native fish predation, and continued scientific experimentation, data collection, and monitoring to better address the important resources in the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam.
In cooperation with five Interior agencies, the upcoming release is designed to take full advantage of sediment deposited by Colorado River tributaries as a result of recent rainstorms and monsoons. Scientists have determined that the right conditions exist to conduct a high-flow release to benefit downstream resources, including camping beaches, sandbars, backwater habitats, riparian vegetation, and archeological sites.
The total maximum release from the dam will reach approximately 42,300 cubic-feet-per-second, consisting of 27,300 cfs of full powerplant capacity releases and a bypass release through the four river outlet tubes sending an additional 15,000 cfs of water out over the Colorado River in a spectacular visual display. The total duration of the high-flow release will be nearly five days including 24 hours at the peak release.
Click here for the current status for Lake Powell from the Bureau of Reclamation (Katrina Grantz):
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam are currently averaging approximately 8,020 cfs with fluctuations for hydropower generation between approximately 7,000 cfs (nighttime) and 9,000 cfs (daytime). The releases in November are consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). The release volume for November is currently schedued as 600kaf, however, this volume may be adjusted in the event of a High Flow Experiment (see below) [ed emphasis mine].
This fall marks the first season under a multi-year High Flow Protocol announced earlier this year by Secretary Salazar. Under this Protocol, high flow releases are linked to sediment input and other resource conditions below Glen Canyon Dam. Preliminary sediment estimates appear favorable for a high flow experimental release to occur during the period of November 18 – 25, 2012 should sediment and other conditions warrant.
Reclamation’s planning activities for the high flow release are focusing on an anticipated date of November 19, 2012 for the bypass release to begin; however, no final decisions on the dates, duration or amount of the release have been made. Dam operations to ramp up to powerplant capacity prior to the bypass event would begin on November 18. During the High Flow Experiment, total releases from Glen Canyon Dam at full bypass may reach approximately 42,000 cfs. The total experiment, including ramping, could last anywhere from one and a half to six and a half days. November releases from Glen Canyon Dam prior to and after the high flow experiment would fluctuate between 5,000cfs and 8,000cfs. As more information on the potential high flow release becomes available, that information will be updated here. [ed. emphasis mine]
To view the most current reservoir elevation, content, inflow and release, click on: Lake Powell Data.
The unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell in October was 189 thousand acre-feet (kaf) (37% of average). The release volume from Glen Canyon Dam in October was 498 kaf. The end of October elevation and storage of Lake Powell were 3619.5 feet (80.5 feet from full pool) and 13.71 maf (56.4% of full capacity). The reservoir elevation is now declining.
The water year unregulated inflow volume for 2012 was 4.91maf (45.3% of average), placing the 2012 as the third lowest on record since the closure of Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. In terms of reservoir elevation and storage, Lake Powell reached its peak for water year 2012 on June 3rd at 3636.9 ft (63.1 feet from full pool) and 15.64 maf (64.3% of capacity), respectively.
Releases for Water Year 2012 totaled 9.466 maf. Pursuant to the 2007 Interim Guidelines, Lake Powell operated under the Equalization Tier in 2012, releasing 9.463 maf, which is 8.233 maf plus 1.233 maf (the Equalization release volume from 2011 that could not be achieved by September 30, 2011). Throughout water year 2012, Reclamation adjusted operations of Glen Canyon Dam to release the appropriate annual volume during 2012 to achieve Equalization objectives as practicably as possible by September 30, 2012.
Current Dam Operations
The operating tier for 2013 is the Upper Elevation Balancing Tier, as establish in August 2012 and pursuant to the Interim Guidelines. However, if hydrologic conditions and projections become wetter, it is possible that beginning in April, the Equalization tier will govern the operations of Lake Powell for the remainder of the water year. Based on analysis of a range of inflow scenarios, the current probability of realizing an inflow volume that would trigger Equalization in 2013 is approximately 20 percent. As hydrologic conditions for Lake Powell and Lake Mead change throughout the year, Reclamation will adjust operations of Glen Canyon Dam to release the appropriate annual volume during 2013 to achieve the governing operating tier objectives as practicably as possible by September 30, 2013.
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam in November are currently averaging approximately 8,020 cfs with daily fluctuations between 7,000cfs and 9,000cfs and consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997).
The anticipated release volume for November is 600 kaf with fluctuations for power generation throughout the day consistent with the Glen Canyon Operating Criteria (Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 41, March 3, 1997). However, the release volume may be adjusted in the event of a High Flow Experiment. This fall marks the first season of a multi-year High-Flow Protocol, under which high flow releases are linked to sediment input and other resource conditions below Glen Canyon Dam. Preliminary analysis appears favorable for a high flow experimental release to occur during the period of November 18 – 25, 2012. During the High Flow Experiment, total releases from Glen Canyon Dam at full bypass may reach approximately 42,000 cfs. The total experiment, including ramping, could last anywhere from one and a half to six and a half days. In the event of a high flow experiment, releases from Glen Canyon Dam prior to and after the high flow experiment are anticipated to fluctuate between 5,000cfs and 8,000cfs.
In December, the release volume will likely be about 800 kaf, with fluctuations throughout the day from about 8,250 cfs in the early morning to about 16,250 cfs in the early evening. In January, the release volume will likely be about 800 kaf with daily fluctuations for hydropower.
In addition to daily scheduled fluctuations for power generation, the instantaneous releases from Glen Canyon Dam may also fluctuate to provide 40 MW of system regulation. These instantaneous release adjustments stabilize the electrical generation and transmission system and translate to a range of about 1,100 cfs above or below the hourly scheduled release rate. Typically, fluctuations for system regulation are very short lived and balance out over the hour and do not have noticeable impacts on downstream river flow conditions.
Releases from Glen Canyon Dam can also fluctuate beyond scheduled fluctuations for power generation when called upon as a partner that shares reserve requirements within the electrical generator community (i.e. balancing area). To provide system reliability, all participating electricity generators within the balancing area maintain a specified level of generation capacity (i.e. reserves) that can be called upon when an unscheduled outage occurs. Glen Canyon Dam typically maintains 43 MW of reserves (approximately 1,100 cfs) for this purpose. Reserve calls can be maintained for a maximum of 2 hours after which time the generation rate should be returned to the original schedule. If reserves from Glen Canyon Dam are called upon, releases from the dam can exceed scheduled levels and can have a noticeable impact on the river downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. Calls for reserves are fairly infrequent and typically are for much less than 43 MW.
Current Inflow Forecasts and Model Projections
The hydrologic outlook forecast for water year 2013 projects that the most probable (median) unregulated inflow volume will be 7.60 maf (70% of average based on the period 1981-2010). Based on this hydrologic outlook, the October 24-Month study projects the annual release volume for water year 2013 will be 8.23 maf and the end of water year reservoir elevation and storage for Lake Powell will be 3608.52 (91.48 feet from full pool) and 12.582 maf (51.7% capacity), respectively.
If hydrologic conditions and projections become wetter, it is possible that beginning in April, the Equalization tier will govern the operations of Lake Powell for the remainder of the water year and the release volume for 2013 could be greater than 8.23 maf. Based on analysis of a range of inflow scenarios, the current probability of realizing an inflow volume that would trigger Equalization in 2013 is approximately 20 percent.
Upper Colorado River Basin Hydrology
Since water year 2005, the Upper Colorado River Basin has experienced significant year to year hydrologic variability. The unregulated inflow to Lake Powell, which is a good measure of hydrologic conditions in the Colorado River Basin, has averaged a water year volume of 10.22 maf (94% of average (period 1981-2010)) during the period from 2005 through 2012. The hydrologic variability during this period has been from a low water year unregulated inflow volume of 4.91 maf (45% of average) in water year 2012 to a high water year unregulated inflow volume of 15.97 maf (147% of average) in water year 2011. Based on observed inflows and current forecasts, water year 2013 unregulated inflow is expected to be 7.59 maf (70% of average).
Overall reservoir storage in the Colorado River Basin has increased by over 4 maf since the beginning of water year 2005 and this is an improvement over the persistent drought conditions during water years 2000 through 2004. From the beginning of water year 2005 to the beginning of water year 2013, the total reservoir storage in the Colorado River Basin increased from 29.8 maf (50% of capacity) to 33.9 maf (57 % of capacity). However, this period experienced increases and decreases in total Colorado Basin storage in response to wet and dry hydrology.
Thanks to Lake Powell Life for the heads up:
The Bureau of Reclamation will conduct a high flow experimental release of water from Lake Powell back into the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam mid-month, possibly between November 18th and November 25th. During the experiment, total releases from the dam at full bypass may reach 42-thousand Cubic Feet per Second. The experiment may last anywhere from a half-day to six-and-a-half days.
A BOR spokesperson says the high release flows mimic historical pre-dam spring floods and runoffs. The effects of the experimental high flow release on the downstream ecosystem of the Colorado River will be studied and analyzed. The Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (AMP) was established in 1997 to provide for long-term research and monitoring of downstream resources. The scientific information obtained under the Adaptive Management Program is used as the basis for recommendations for dam operations and management actions.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Larry Lopez):
How much do Coloradans really know about their state fish?
Did you know, for example, that there are only an estimated 750 of them in the hundreds of miles of state waters.
In case you didn’t know, the greenback cutthroat trout was designated Colorado’s official state fish of Colorado in 1994, to recognize a true Colorado trout. Previously, the state fish was the rainbow trout — a fish that had been imported into Colorado in 1882.
Originally considered indigenous to many small streams and rivers throughout the Arkansas and South Platte river basins in Colorado, the greenback eventually wound up on the verge of extinction at the time of its designation, as loss of good habitat and the introduction of additional species of trout took a toll.
The recent release of a new research by scientists at the University of Colorado noted that the last surviving population of true greenbacks in Colorado is limited to Bear Creek, a tiny stream on the slope of Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs.
“We’ve known for some time that the trout in Bear Creek were unique,” said Doug Krieger, a senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife Service.
“But we didn’t realize they were the only surviving greenback population,” Krieger added.
The findings of the CU researchers, Jessica Metcalf and Andrew Martin, were startling, said Theo Stein of the service’s Denver office.
“It opened the window of this fish that surprised a lot of people. We didn’t know we’re one stream away from extinction of the state fish,” Stein said.
The number of greenback living in the fourmile reach of Bear Creek was estimated from fish sampling completed in 2011. However, the actual number could vary as sampling in these type of headwater streams can be difficult.
The study also found that a previously undiscovered San Juan Basin cutthroat and the yellowfin cutthroat trout (which was originally found in the upper basin around Leadville) also are extinct.
It has meant a change in the service’s thinking on management of the greenback.
To complement the new research findings, the Greenback Cutthroat Trout Recovery Team has begun working with Colorado State University to reexamine the physical characteristics of Colorado cutthroats. When completed, scientists will compare results from physical examination with the genetic analysis in hopes of further clarifying the evolutionary relationships among native cutthroat trout.
In the meantime, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have begun growing a broodstock of greenback in two hatcheries with hopes of transplanting a new population back to the wild by 2014. Krieger is optimistic about the future of greenback cutthroats and suggests that, “This fish was found in many streams before settlers came to Colorado, and we hope to expand greenbacks to more places so that people can enjoy this legacy once again.”
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):
The Indy ran an extensive article on the greenback, its fascinating history, and the current controversy over its preservation here.
The Forest Service study is the first step in offering better protection to the fish. The study will look at the current condition of the watershed, and how current activities — such as motorcycling — are affecting the health of the area.
When the study is complete, the Forest Service will use it to make recommendations for changes to the area that could include, for instance, moving trails further from the creek.
Next, the Forest Service will do a National Environmental Policy Act study, which will determine if proposed changes are, indeed, the best move for the watershed and what effects they will have. The NEPA will ultimately determine if the changes will happen and how they will take place.
The two studies could take years to complete, and there are plenty of opportunities for public comment along the way.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
While the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program wasn’t able to meet its dry-year flow goals of 810 cubic feet per second at Palisade, Grand Valley and upstream water managers worked cooperatively to maintain an average flow of 500 cfs this summer, well above the flows during Colorado’s last significant drought in 2002.
And warm temperatures in the river, while not optimal for non-native trout, may have helped some of the young endangered fish like the Colorado Pikeminnow put on a bit of extra weight, a key factor to surviving their first winter, said Tom Chart, director of the interagency recovery effort.
“Everybody breath a sigh of relief when September came around,” Chart said. “We were in a better position with upstream reservoir storage … and we managed to limp through.”
First results from late-summer monitoring in the Lower Colorado River and the Green River suggest that spawning numbers and initial survival rates for Colorado pikeminnow were near average, despite drought conditions, Chart said, adding that the size of the young fish was above average — good news for the fish going into the winter…
“After two decades of effort by Recovery Program partners to construct these fish screens, fish passages and water management facilities, it was gratifying to see all water users working together collaboratively to minimize the impacts of the extreme drought conditions,” said Brent Uilenberg, technical services division manager for Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office.
From the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is praising the voluntary efforts of several private water organizations in the area for their efforts in helping endangered fish during a year of drought.
The agency has sent letters of acknowledgement to entities that have assisted in the efforts of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.
On the Colorado River, three private organizations helped boost flows to support endangered Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, bonytail and humpback chub in 15 miles of critical habitat from Palisade to the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, Fish and Wildlife said in a news release.
The Orchard Mesa Irrigation District operated a check structure in the Grand Valley Power Plant discharge canal to make water available for the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, an action that preserved stored water in the upstream Green Mountain Reservoir for future use.
The Orchard Mesa district also continued work to implement an automation project that will help conserve water when completed in 2015.
Fish and Wildlife also recognized the Grand Valley Irrigation Company for taking advantage of low flows to remove a cobble bar that was deposited in the river during last year’s high flows. The cobble bar prevented operation of a screen that keeps fish from becoming trapped in the irrigation canal.
Fish and Wildlife credited the Grand Valley Water Users Association for managing to intermittently operate a fish screen on its canal despite low flows. In addition, the association operated the Grand Valley Water Management Project, a collaborative project with the Recovery Program that improves the efficiency of the canal system to conserve water.
While Fish and Wildlife wasn’t able to meet its recommended dry-year flow target for endangered fish of 810 cubic feet per second at Palisade this year, Grand Valley and upstream water managers worked cooperatively to maintain an average flow of 500 cfs this summer. That compares with just 171 cfs on the same stretch of river during the drought of 2002.
Fish and Wildlife also credited the Palisade Irrigation District for taking advantage of low flows to repair extensive 2011 high-water damage to the fish passage at the Price-Stubb Diversion Dam.
In addition, it recognized the Redlands Water and Power Co. for operating its fish passage and fish screen from April through September, with the help of the Bureau of Reclamation’s operations of upstream dams on the Gunnison River. As of early August, more than 9,000 fish had used the passage, Fish and Wildlife Service said. Of those, 90 percent were native fish, including 10 Colorado pikeminnow.
More endangered/threatened species coverage here.
From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):
Lake Powell, the key reservoir in the Colorado River system, ended the 2012 water year at just 57.5 percent of full and will continue to drop through the fall, with a steady release of about 8,000 cubic feet per second scheduled through October.
Despite the low-water year, the Bureau of Reclamation is considering implementing a high-flow regime in November, as part of an effort to mimic natural flood conditions on the great River considered essential for maintaining wildlife habitat and potentially reducing erosion of archaeological sites.
The high flows may also enhance riparian vegetation, maintain or increase camping opportunities, and improve the wilderness experience along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park. The protocol is designed to take full advantage of sediment provided by tributaries of the Colorado River as a result of rainstorms and monsoons.
According to BuRec, preliminary sediment estimates appear favorable for a high flow experimental release to occur during the period of November 18 – 25, 2012 should sediment and other conditions warrant.
The total water release for the year from Lake Powell was about 9.46 million acre feet. The inflow during the peak April through July runoff season was just 2.06 million acre feet, which is 29 percent of average and the third-lowest April-to-July period on record, behind 1977 and 2002.
From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):
Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocked the lake with 250 cutthroat trout last week as part of an ongoing project to restore the species to its native habitat. Transporting the fish was done via horseback and truck from a small stream on the Uncompahgre Plateau the same day. The cutthroat will take around two years to create a sustainable population in their new home, according to CPW. The reintroduction plan ultimately calls for more than 2,000 fish to be stocked into the lake and its surrounding tributaries — the next stocking is planned for the spring of 2013. “We’ll do [the spring relocation] to give us multiple age classes of fish and to provide good genetic diversity,” said Dan Kowalski, an aquatic researcher with Parks and Wildlife in Montrose, in a release.
The 24-acre lake is located off of Forest Service Road 618 west of Telluride and was chosen for a number of reasons — mainly its pristine condition and remote location. But its natural barriers also prevent non-native species from gaining access…
In Colorado, there are three species of cutthroat trout in different regions of the state. Colorado River cutthroat trout live in drainages west of the continental divide, Greenback cutthroat trout are in the South Platte and Arkansas River drainages, and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout are found in streams draining into the San Luis Valley, according to Parks and Wildlife.
Efforts to restore the species have been ongoing since the early 1970s, when Greenback trout was listed as endangered. Greenbacks currently have a lesser-threatened classification.
According to Parks and Wildlife, another cutthroat restoration project is ongoing in the upper Hermosa Creek drainage near the Durango Mountain Resort in San Juan County. When that project is completed in about five years, more than 20 miles of Hermosa Creek and feeder streams will be home to native cutthroats.
I believe cutthroats were seen doing backflips celebrating the news. Here’s a report from Caleb Soptelean writing for the Cortez Journal. From the article:
The Little Taylor, Rio Lado and Spring Creek drainages were selected for protection because they contain Colorado River cutthroat trout. The decision was made on Tuesday, Sept. 11 by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission.
The Dolores River Anglers were the “movers and shakers” behind the effort…
The Dolores River Anglers notified Parks and Wildlife of the existence of the trout between Dolores and Rico north of Highway 145, said Burkett, who worked with Chuck Wanner on the application. The state agency is taking fry from the creeks and using them for brood stock since they are such a pure strain, [Chris Burkett] said…
The state has given 15 creeks and their tributaries the “outstanding water” designation since 2006, according to Anthony. The largest of these are Hermosa and Rapid creeks. These do not include wilderness areas or national parks.
Here’s the release from the U.S. Department of Interior (Blake Androff/Leith Edgar):
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar today announced the formal establishment of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area as the nation’s 558th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, thanks to the donation of a nearly 77,000-acre conservation easement in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains bordering the San Luis Valley by noted conservationist Louis Bacon.
“Following in the footsteps of our greatest conservationists, Louis Bacon’s generosity and passion for the great outdoors is helping us to establish an extraordinary conservation area in one of our nation’s most beautiful places,” Secretary Salazar said. “This newest treasure in our National Wildlife Refuge System links together a diverse mosaic of public and private lands, protects working landscapes and water quality, and creates a landscape corridor for fish and wildlife unlike any place in the world.”
Bacon, a longtime advocate and proponent of landscape and wildlife conservation, is donating a conservation easement on nearly 77,000 acres of his 81,400-acre Trinchera Ranch. Today’s action builds on his previously announced intention also to donate a perpetual conservation easement on the 90,000 acre Blanca Ranch, bringing the total amount of permanently protected land to nearly 170,000 acres. When completed, the two easements will represent the largest donation ever to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). The Blanca Ranch easement donation is expected to be finalized later this year.
“We are too quickly losing important landscapes in this country to development– and I worry that if we do not act to protect them now, future generations will grow up in a profoundly different world,” said Bacon. “This motivates me and is why I am proud to place Trinchera Ranch, Blanca’s adjoining ranch, into a conservation easement forever protecting it with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. I am also honored to help Secretary Salazar and the US Fish and Wildlife Service create the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. It is an area widely known for its cultural, geographic, wildlife and habitat resources, and this conservation area provides another opportunity to conserve it in perpetuity.”
Trinchera Blanca Ranch is the largest contiguous, privately owned ranch in Colorado and features breathtaking vistas of high desert shrubs and mountain grasslands, combined with alpine forest and alpine tundra. The area stretches up to the top of one of the highest peaks in Colorado, Blanca Peak at 14,345 feet above sea level. It falls in the center of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the longest mountain chain in the United States, and borders the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness near Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
Joined by Service Director Dan Ashe and Dan Pike of Colorado Open Lands, Salazar and Bacon signed the conservation easement on the Trinchera Ranch to formally establish the new refuge. They also signed a memorandum of agreement to complement an existing Colorado Open Lands easement agreement already in place on the property.
Colorado Open Lands will jointly monitor and support the conservation efforts with the Service. The agreement marks one of the first cooperative arrangements of its kind among the federal government, a private land trust and a private landowner.
“Trinchera is such a spectacular property and the creation of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area allows us to protect this landscape, something that is truly special,” said Colorado Open Lands Executive Director Pike. “It has been an honor to hold the conservation easement on Trinchera for nearly a decade. We look forward to being able to share best practices with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and are extremely excited about this innovative collaboration in land conservation.”
“We’re excited to see the results of this collaborative conservation effort come to fruition, thanks to the generosity of Louis Bacon and the strategic and inclusive planning efforts that serve the conservation needs of fish, wildlife and plants across the San Luis Valley landscape,” said Director Ashe. “The Service has been working with landowners in the San Luis Valley on a locally-led voluntary cooperative partnership effort to conserve wildlife habitat and keep working lands working.”
Costilla County Commissioner Crestina Martinez, noted photographer and author John Fielder, and Executive Director of Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts John Swartout also joined today’s signing ceremony.
“Mr. Bacon’s donation of this incredible conservation easement is welcome news for Coloradans who treasure this area and can now rest assured that it will be protected for generations to come. I want to commend him for the example he is setting for other landowners in Costilla County and across the state interested in protecting the wildlife and natural resources that sustain our local economies and way of life,” Udall said. “This announcement reflects a first-of its kind partnership in this part of Colorado, where a private landowner and a federal agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, have made a shared commitment to conservation of one of the most pristine private landholdings in the southern Rockies. It has been said that we don’t inherit the earth from our parents — we borrow them from our children. The establishment of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area ensures that this scenic gem will be here for future Coloradans to enjoy.”
Under President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and outdoor recreation agenda, the Interior Department has spearheaded a series of voluntary partnerships with landowners to conserve rural landscapes while ensuring ranching, farming and other traditional ways of life remain strong. Conservation easements are only acquired from willing landowners.
These initiatives include new units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, such as the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area in Kansas, the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area of South Dakota and North Dakota, and the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area in Montana.
For more information about the Service’s partnership work in the San Luis Valley or the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Mountain-Prairie’s homepage at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/.
More coverage from the Associated Press (Thomas Peipert) via The Denver Post. From the article:
Bacon, a hedge fund manager, is adding a conservation easement to protect nearly 77,000 acres of his 81,400-acre Trinchera Ranch from development. He announced plans in June to add a perpetual conservation easement on his 90,000-acre Blanca Ranch if the federal government moved ahead with plans to create a new 5 million-acre conservation corridor in Colorado and New Mexico…
It creates “a contiguous mosaic of privately held and publicly protected lands that will stay in perpetuity in creating one of the longest migratory wildlife corridors in America,” stretching from the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve to New Mexico, Bacon said. He added that he hopes his decision to put the land under a conservation easement will inspire other landowners to do the same.
Bacon’s land, which Salazar’s office said is the largest contiguous, privately owned ranch in Colorado, includes three 14,000-foot peaks—Mount Lindsey, Blanca and Little Bear peaks—in the Sangre de Cristos. The mountain range is one of relatively few in the United States that that still allows unobstructed migration by wildlife.
Here’s a look at restoration efforts on Hermosa Creek, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. Click through for the Herald video taken on Wednesday at the headwaters. Here’s an excerpt:
Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists and volunteers, including Trout Unlimited, planted 11,000 fingerlings about 3 inches long and 200 10-inchers in the main stem of Hermosa Creek upstream from Hotel Draw. Fish were carried in bags from trucks and emptied into Hermosa Creek at various points. If the fish had to be carried any distance, they were transported in super-oxygenated water to ensure they arrived in good condition.
Michael Martinez, a fish culturist at the Parks and Wildlife hatchery in Durango, brought the fingerlings Tuesday from the Rifle Falls hatchery in Garfield County…
Native cutthroat trout don’t compete well with other species, so efforts to increase their population – they occupy only 14 percent of their historic habitat – focus on giving them exclusive use of certain waters…
In pre-Columbian times, the Colorado River variety was found in all cool-water habitat above present-day Glen Canyon…