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Blue River Barrier and Tributary Renovations
Southwest Region, December 10, 2004
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In April 2001, the Arizona Ecological Service Office (AESO) finalized a biological opinion with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) on the transportation and delivery of Central Arizona Project (CAP) water to the Gila River Basin. As part of that opinion, Reclamation agreed to construct a barrier on the Blue River, in Greenlee County, Arizona. Reclamation is moving forward with that barrier, and working cooperatively with the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. At the same time, these agencies are proposing to build barriers and remove nonnatives in Lanphier Canyon, Grant Creek, and McKittrick Creek; remove nonnative fishes above existing natural barriers in Coleman and KP Creeks, and restock renovated segments of each of these streams (which are all tributaries to the Blue River) with Gila trout and other native species.

On October 20, 2004, the Bureau of Reclamation, who has the lead for NEPA compliance, distributed a Scoping document, notifying approximately 720 individuals and agencies that they were preparing to start an Environmental Assessment for the project. In response to this Scoping request, Reclamation received 33 comment letters identifying several issues that commenters believed need to be addressed in the EA. These issues included water rights, concerns over the use of piscicides, the effects of a barrier on the Blue River's hydrology, questions on the validity of information for Gila trout genetics, effects to a local fish hatchery, crayfish, removal of non-natives, cultural resources, wilderness designations, new roads, and increased sedimentation. Of the 33 letters, the majority either expressed concerns or identified issues to be addressed in the EA. Twelve letters stated support for the project.

The use of piscicides received the most comments. It was clear from the comments that many individuals believe incorrectly that piscicides will be used in the mainstem Blue River. Concerns with piscicides included their effects on human health, livestock, threatened and endangered species and other wildlife, macroinvertebrates, and recreation. There were several questions on the type of piscicide that would be used, neutralizers that would be used, the effectiveness of these treatments, and how many times the treatments would be repeated.

Authors of letters expressing concern or stating opposition to the project came primarily from residents of the Town of Blue and its immediate vicinity. Many of them indicated that they were not initially notified of the project, or that they had insufficient time to respond. Several of the comments illustrated that the proposed action is not fully understood. To address this, Reclamation and the Forest Service have determined that two public meetings will be held in February 2005. The meetings will follow an open house format, and will be used to allow residents to provide additional information. The public meetings will be held in Blue and Clifton, Arizona in February 2005. As a member of the ID Team, the AESO will attend meetings.

Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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