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As the words “drought” and “shortage” are in the media almost daily, the issue is coming to the forefront of nearly everyone’s mind.  While the average citizen may not have been thinking about these important water issues on a daily basis, Central Arizona Project and its partners have been – since CAP began delivering water 30 year ago.  The following are highlights of innovations, partnerships and collaborations which have helped to position Arizona for the future:

BOR-Commsiioner-Estevan-LopezWhat do the Yuma Clapper Rail, Bonytail Chub and Razorback Sucker have in common? For starters, they are on the endangered species list. And, they are included in the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP), which includes 26 species, seven of which are either threatened or endangered. This comprehensive, ecosystem-based Habitat Conservation Plan covers about 1,119 square miles of Arizona, California and Nevada.

The MSCP, which is one of four environmental programs in the Colorado River Basin, celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this week. Programs such as this balance the needs for water and hydropower with the protection of endangered and threatened species, many of which are covered under all four programs.

The MSCP has made significant progress toward its goals over the last 10 years including:

  • the establishment of more than 4,600 acres of habitat along the Colorado River
  • producing and stocking native fish
  • constant improvement of the program through an adaptive management process


Eleven Conservation Areas have been developed as part of the MSCP. Some of the more notable projects include:

  • The Laguna Division Restoration Project, which uses existing water delivery infrastructure to effectively balance water deliveries for habitat creation and conservation.  Non-native salt cedar trees were removed and in their place, 200 acres of open water, marsh and more than 800 acres of cottonwood-willow and mesquite were established to create an integrated mosaic of habitats.
  • The Yuma East Wetlands Project, combining ecosystem improvement and economic development in the Yuma area under a unique partnership amongst the City of Yuma, the National Heritage Area, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Quechan Tribe.  Approximately 390 acres of marsh, mesquite and cottonwood-willow habitat have been restored. 
  • The Big Bend Conservation Area Project that was developed as a collaborative conservation and community outreach partnership amongst the Bureau of Reclamation, Nevada state parks and wildlife agencies and the Southern Nevada Water Authority.  The project is adjacent to part of the Big Bend Colorado State Recreation Area and provides an opportunity to educate the community about the MSCP.
  • The Palo Verde Ecological Reserve, located on former agricultural lands acquired by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It provides a restoration of native riparian habitats through the use of simulated flooding.
  • The Cibola Valley Conservation Area, which is located on former agricultural lands that have been deeded to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The area includes blocks of restored native riparian habitat where Cottonwood-willow and honey mesquite were planted to create a riparian plant community similar to what was historically present in the Colorado River floodplain.

Ten years in and with solid progress made, the MSCP goal remains the same: to achieve a sustainable balance between the needs of the region’s intricate ecosystem and the needs of the more than 25 million people who depend on the water, power, cultural and recreational resources provided by the Colorado River system.


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