NEWS WORTH NOTING: Placer County Water Agency launches a partnership in forest restoration; New conservation area provides habitat to protect endangered fish and wildlife along the Colorado River

Placer County Water Agency launches a partnership in forest restoration

From the Placer County Water Agency:

The 28,000-acre French Meadows Forest Restoration Project is using a collaborative, all-lands approach to restore forest health and resilience and reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire in the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the American River, a critical municipal watershed located on the Tahoe National Forest in California’s Sierra Nevada.

The Project was developed by a diverse partnership, including the U.S. Forest Service, which manages most of the land within the project area; Placer County Water Agency, which manages two reservoirs downstream of the project for municipal water and hydropower; The Nature Conservancy, one of the world’s largest conservation organizations; the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, a state agency and funder; Placer County, a business partner in the hydropower project; the American River Conservancy, an adjacent private landowner; and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced.

The French Meadows Project aims to accelerate ecologically-based forest and watershed restoration on the Tahoe National Forest through a shared stewardship approach involving:

• Collaborative Management. The partners co-led development of the project and hired consultants to undertake planning and environmental analysis, substantially reducing the planning time for similar Forest Service projects.
• Diverse Fundraising. The partners raised funds from a wide variety of federal, state, local, and private sources, including significant investment from downstream water beneficiaries like the water utility and private beverage companies.
• Innovative Project Implementation. Placer County will hire contractors to implement thinning and other mechanical treatments, under a Master Stewardship Agreement with the Forest Service. The Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service will work together to develop and implement a prescribed burn plan.
Watershed Research. The Sierra Nevada Research Institute is leading research to better understand and quantify the Project’s potential forest health and water supply benefits.

For more on this restoration project, click this link: FMP Fact sheet

Watch this four minute video:

New conservation area provides habitat to protect endangered fish and wildlife along the Colorado River

635 acres added to Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program

From the Metropolitan Water District:

A wide swath of former farmland next to the Colorado River is being transformed into a natural habitat of cottonwood, willow and honey mesquite trees as part of a broad program to protect threatened and endangered species that once thrived in the river’s floodplains.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California formally dedicated the 635-acre site in the Palo Verde Valley today as the Dennis Underwood Conservation Area, named after the former Reclamation commissioner and Metropolitan general manager.

The area was created through an easement granted by Metropolitan, which owns the land, to Reclamation for the development and management of the habitat in perpetuity. Restoration and planting work has begun and is expected to be completed in 2021.

“We’ve been working hard to help ensure the reliability of the Colorado River for the 40 million people across the Southwest who depend on its waters, while working to ensure the health of the river’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “It’s fitting that we’re naming this valuable habitat after Dennis Underwood since he contributed so much to the Colorado River and western water over his more than 30-year career. Dennis Underwood’s legacy of partnerships and problem-solving will be remembered as the conservation area is protected in perpetuity.”

The area is the latest addition to the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, a historic federal/state partnership launched in 2005 to work toward the recovery of endangered and threatened fish and wildlife along 400 miles of the Lower Colorado. The 50-year program will ultimately create more than 8,100 acres of new natural habitat, including riparian, marsh and backwaters, to protect more than 27 fish, bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile species.

To date, 17 conservation areas totaling more than 6,000 acres have been established along the river, from Lake Mead to the Mexican border.

The Dennis Underwood Conservation Area is expected to attract numerous species, such as the yellow-billed cuckoo, vermilion flycatcher, Arizona Bell’s vireo, western red bat and Colorado River cotton rat.

The cost of the $626 million program is split 50/50 between the federal government and the Lower Basin states, with California contributing half of the states’ portion and Arizona and Nevada each contributing 25 percent. Program participants consist of six federal agencies and 51 non-federal agencies, including state and federal resource agencies, water and power users, Native American tribes, municipalities and conservation organizations.

“We are all partners in this effort. For the Colorado River to continue supplying water to the people, farms and economies of seven states and Mexico, we also must ensure the river continues supporting the diverse species who call it home, from the razorback sucker fish, to the desert pocket mouse,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said. “We must balance many urban, agricultural and ecological needs.”

The Dennis Underwood Conservation Area was named in honor of Underwood, who worked in the water industry for more than 30 years, including serving as Reclamation commissioner from 1989 to 1993 and at Metropolitan from 1999 until his passing in 2005, when he was general manager. Underwood also served the nation as a commissioned officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1966 to 1969. He brought a unique and creative approach to the challenges of western water, and many of his approaches serve as the cornerstone of water management today, particularly on the Colorado River.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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