Atwell Island Land Retirement Demonstration Project
Atwell Island is located within the southeastern portion of now-drained Tulare Lake which as recently as 100 years ago was the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. The lake has been dry for many years, with its water now stored behind foothill dams and used for agriculture. The Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 authorized a land retirement program to reduce the accumulation of drain water and lessen problems associated with its disposal. An interagency team consisting of representatives from the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U. S. Bureau of Land Management was assembled to accomplish the goals of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act Land Retirement Program. This program may purchase land, water, and other property interests from willing sellers.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Assess the effects of land retirement on drain water and ground water levels,
- Evaluate the potential of land retirement to decrease bioavailable selenium and other toxic compounds,
- Develop and determine costs of effective restoration technologies for establishing native biota on the sites, and
- Determine the responses of wildlife to restoration efforts.
BLM now owns and manages Atwell Island which consists of 7,000 acres located just south of Alpaugh, Tulare County, and is situated near the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge, Kern National Wildlife Refuge and Allensworth State Historic Park.
BLM is restoring native valley grassland, a wetland, and alkali sink habitats on an area that for the past century was covered by fields of cotton, oats, and alfalfa. Atwell Island is currently home to federally listed and sensitive animal species including mountain plover, Tipton's kangaroo rat, and the San Joaquin kit fox, tricolored blackbird, burrowing owls, horned lizards, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard.
Learn more about the Atwell Island Land Retirement Demonstration Project:
Atwell Island Project Herbarium, an illustrated list of plants on the project
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
California State University, Stanislaus Endangered Species Recovery Program
Tulare Basin Wildland Partners
Synthesis of Restoration Research Conducted at the Atwell Island Project Alpaugh, California (pdf)