Plan for Colorado River to aid wildlife, preserve intensive water use

Federal water managers this week joined the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada in trumpeting a new 50-year plan to aid native wildlife along parts of a 400-mile stretch of the Colorado River from Lake Mead to the Mexican border. Prompted by a 1997 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruling that the Bureau of Reclamation’s dams and other water diversions along the Colorado imperiled endangered species of birds and fish, federal and state managers dreamed up the new plan to stay in compliance. But instead of removing dams, using controlled water releases to mimic the Colorado’s natural flooding, or even just diverting less water, the plan does just enough to keep water agencies from violating environmental laws, while largely preserving the status quo. It calls for planting new cottonwood groves to provide habitat for endangered birds, but the groves will have to be artificially irrigated to keep them alive, and populations of native fish will be sustained by raising them in hatcheries for release into the river.