Udall, Bennet: Support Headed to Colorado Water Projects in Energy & Water Bill

Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Senators for Colorado, today announced that funding for several Colorado water projects is on its way as the Senate approved the Energy and Water Conference Report today. The Conference Report is the result of an agreement between the House and Senate and is the final version of the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Act, which helps fund critical flood control, energy and public works projects.

Bennet and Udall joined their Senate colleagues in approving the bill. The two Senators fought to include specific funding to help Colorado, including a tamarisk eradication project on the Colorado River Basin and the Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Project in the Four Corners region. Now that the bill has received Senate approval, it will go to the President for his signature.

"Colorado's rivers supply drinking water and support agriculture, and it's critical to keep them healthy," Senator Udall said. "I was proud to fight for funding for Colorado that will enable local communities to keep the Colorado River healthy, and to help restore the Jackson Gulch Reservoir."

"Whether the culprit is invasive species or eroding infrastructure, we cannot compromise the safety of rivers and reservoirs that Coloradans depend on," Bennet said. "This funding will help restore the health of the Colorado River as well as the canal that brings water to and from Jackson Gulch."

Details about some of the projects follow:

Tamarisk Eradication, Army Corps of Engineers

Tamarisk is an invasive plant species that can usually out-compete native plants for water. A single, large tamarisk can transpire up to 300 gallons of water per day. In many areas where watercourses are small or intermittent and tamarisk has taken hold, it can severely limit the available water, or even dry up a water source. Tamarisk can increase the risk of wildfire and can deplete already-limited Western water supplies.

The proposed project is located along the Colorado River and adjacent areas in Mesa County, starting at the Colorado/Utah state line and extending 52 miles upstream to the west entrance to Dubuque Canyon and consists of various management measures to restore aquatic and hydrologic functions and conditions and related riparian and seasonal wetland habitats. This stretch of river is critical habitat for four Colorado River endangered fish species. Project features include specific actions to restore fish spawning areas, flood plain hydrology, riparian habitat, and access to critical habitat for endangered fish. These actions will include exotic vegetation removal and management, riverbank improvements, and native re-vegetation to restore bottomland flood plain habitat. The funding will be determined by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Jackson Gulch Rehabilitation Project -- $1,750,000

The project would rehabilitate The Mancos Project, a sixty-four-year-old, off-river federal project designed to store and deliver water for domestic, recreational, and agricultural use. Rehabilitation has become necessary due to advanced structural deterioration of the concrete and earthen canal that carries water diverted to and from the Jackson Gulch Reservoir. Aging and progressive deterioration of the 4.9 mile canal system has resulted in structural distress, seepage, and loss of an access road due to landslides. Additional problems exist with the sixty-four-year old operations facilities and maintenance buildings.