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New Biological Opinion for Concho Water Snake
Southwest Region, December 3, 2004
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The Service, working closely with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Colorado River Municipal Water District (District), issued a final biological opinion BO) covering the operation of the District's Colorado River reservoirs and the effects on the Concho water snake on December 3, 2004.

The following actions led up to the opinion:

?The CWS was listed as a threatened species in September 1986. The major threat was believed to be the construction of a reservoir.

?Critical habitat was designated in 1989 for areas of the Concho and Colorado rivers that including reservoir shoreline.

?The Service published a final recovery plan in 1993.

?In July, 1998, the Colorado Municipal Water Management District (District) petitioned the Service to delist the CWS. In August 1999, the Service found that the petition did not present substantial information to warrant delisting. In October 1999, Congress directed the Service to gather information to determine the status of the CWS.

?In July 2004, the Corps and District reinitiated the 1986 BO.

?In September 2004, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the District determined that an emergency situation existed in the project area. As a result of more than a decade of serious drought, water in the reservoirs has been depleted and human health and safety may be threatened, especially if downstream flows have to be maintained in the Colorado River.

The December 3, 2004, opinion covers operation and maintenance of all District facilities including Spence and Ivie reservoirs, Lake J.B. Thomas, a diverted water supply system, numerous storage reservoirs, and over 600 miles of transmission line. The opinion went into effect January 3, 2005, when the District declared that the emergency situation was over.

With the new BO, the District has incorporated into the project description reservoir releases to benefit the CWS. In addition, as stated in the BO's reasonable and prudent measures, ?USACE and the District will cooperate to seek restoration of riverine habitat once the saltcedar infestation has been controlled, and

?USACE, the District, and the Service will work together to move CWS from below the dams to above the dams to ensure genetic continuity within the species every three years.

The Service believes that these actions will greatly benefit the Concho and Colorado river watersheds, the people that depend on the watersheds, and the species, including the CWS, that are native to the watersheds. The District's agreement to help lead the conservation effort is essential for its success.

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



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