Conservation of water that gets to Peoria residents and beyond just got a little easier.
The U.S. Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act, which included a provision to expedite permits for the removal of up to 500 acres of Salt Cedar trees, an invasive species estimated to consume about 200 gallons of water a day.
“Any conservation is a worthy cause and I commend Sen. McCain’s efforts to eradicate this invasive tree,” Mayor Cathy Carlat said.
Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake filed an amendment to the bill that gives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the authority to expedite permits for mechanical Salt Cedar removal for projects up to 500 acres. It also authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work closer with non-profits who work in the field of invasive species removal.
Accelerating the removal of the Salt Cedar tree, or Tamarisk, is an important step in safeguarding Arizona’s water supply, Mr. McCain said in a statement.
“The Central Arizona Project estimates that removing Salt Cedar and replanting with native vegetation, like cottonwood and willows, could save up to 860,000 acre-feet of water across the Lower Basin. I’ve seen Salt Cedar removal projects work in places like the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area where 400 acres of Salt Cedar stretching two-stories high were restored as a wetlands habitat that now supports the recovery of endangered species.”
Alan Dulaney, water policy administrator for the city of Peoria, said that although Peoria has no Cedar Trees worthy of note, the amendment is a good thing.
“In a desert, it is important to save as much water as possible — even one drop at a time — to keep our way of life sustainable,” he said. “That amendment to the federal bill is an incremental improvement for the good of the region. Water is important, which Sen. McCain understands. What we do to protect our sources benefits us all, even in Peoria.”
Lake Roosevelt is a major source of water for Arizona Municipal Water Users Association cities, including Peoria. Under normal operations it drops slightly and refills.
Mr. Dulaney said that since 1997 and the inception of the current drought, huge stands of Salt Cedar quickly established themselves across newly exposed lake beds, preventing refilling of the lake under normal operations due to the threat of habitat loss by rising water levels.
“We get our water from the CAP and SRP canals, and any threat to the rivers that fill those canals is a threat to Peoria and its water resources portfolio,” Mr.Dulaney said. “Sen. McCain’s amendment makes it legally easier to undertake salt cedar removal on 500 acres or less, which efforts overall will enhance the natural environment by allowing native species to return and lower water losses in Southwestern streams.”
But it is difficult to put a specific number on the amount of water Peoria will have if salt cedars are eliminated along the Colorado and Salt Rivers, and their tributaries, Mr. Dulaney said.
“There are just too many factors involved. Like, would you count only removals at or just under 500 acres, as made possible by Sen. McCain’s amendments? How would you parse out the entitlements of the three Lower Basin states, and Mexico — and who gets how much of the savings, and from which river? Who pays for the Habitat Conservation Plan at Lake Roosevelt, and how does that translate to nickels and dimes paid in Peoria water rates for SRP water? There are too many levels and too many translations to quantify the savings and costs of one action on one river all the way down to a glass of water — clean and pure — from a Peoria citizen’s tap,” he said. “But Peoria delivers that pure water every day.”