CAP Officials Help Launch I-Ponds

It would be hard to confuse I-Ponds with iPods.

With iPods, you get ear buds and music. With I-Ponds you get to help save the environment along the Colorado River.

The Imperial Ponds (I-Ponds) Conservation Area Project near Martinez Lake northeast of Yuma and is a key step to implementing the Lower Colorado Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP) that involves 720,000 acres in Arizona, California and Nevada.

"We're very pleased to be a partner in this effort," said Susan Bitter Smith, president of the Board of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, which oversees operations of the Central Arizona Project. "It is an important and very good example of how collaborative projects can be successful."

Bitter Smith, along with Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson, was among the approximately 65 dignitaries who dedicated the Imperial Ponds project on Nov. 5.

Six large recently-completed ponds at the Refuge provide 80 acres of new habitat for the razorback sucker and bonytail, both endangered fish that are native to the lower Colorado River. In the coming years, a 12-acre marsh will be added to provide habitat suitable for marsh birds and waterfowl, and 34 acres of native cottonwood-willow trees will be planted to create bird habitat.

The MSCP is a 50-year conservation plan that will allow Arizona to comply with the Endangered Species Act and protect 26 species and their habitat in the Lower Colorado River Basin. CAP's Board has agreed to pay approximately $52 million over 50 years as its share of the cost of the program.

Implementation of MSCP will allow water and power users to continue to operate without interruptions because of endangered species issues. The program includes protection for six endangered and threatened species: the Yuma clapper rail, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the desert tortoise, the bonytail, the humpback chub, and the razorback sucker.

The program covers Arizona activities that include on-going diversions of Colorado River water by users such as CAP, future diversions, including transfers of Colorado River entitlements and changes in the points of diversion of up to 200,000 acre-feet of water per year, and on-going and future use of hydropower from Hoover, Parker and Davis Dams.

The MSCP was implemented in 2005 and will continue until 2055. The MSCP already has provided Endangered Species Act coverage for the proposed shortage guidelines that the Department of the Interior is expected to adopt for the lower Colorado River in December.

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