Contact: David Boyd, Public Affairs Specialist 970-947-2832 

April 7, 2009


Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Report available
for BLM Grand Junction Field Office

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Bureau of Land Management has completed the Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Report for the Grand Junction Field Office.

The report is the first step in a Wild and Scenic River evaluation for the 1.2 million-acre field office, which is being conducted as the Field Office revises its Resource Management Plan. The Eligibility Report provides an inventory of the river and stream segments occurring on BLM lands that meet the criteria to be eligible for federal Wild and Scenic River designation. It does not take into account potentially conflicting uses or the manageability of a river segment, which will be addressed in the next step of the evaluation, the suitability study.

The Eligibility Report evaluated 117 river and stream segments and found 20 were eligible, including a 20-mile stretch of the Colorado River west of Grand Junction, 18 miles of Big Dominguez Creek, 15 miles of Little Dominguez Creek, and stretches of the Dolores and Gunnison rivers. The report is available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo/rmp.html.

“Working with key stakeholders, BLM will look at manageability and conflicting uses on each eligible segment in the suitability study,” said Grand Junction Field Manager Catherine Robertson. “After a thorough analysis of these issues, some river segments may be determined to have issues that will make manageability challenging given other conflicting uses. These segments would be determined to not be suitable for designation. This is why it is so critical that all stakeholders with an interest in these issues participate to help BLM come to a final determination on suitability.”

The suitability study will be included in the Resource Management Plan revision, which will analyze a range of possible recommendations to Congress. BLM may or may not actively recommend suitable segments for Wild and Scenic River designation, based on input from stakeholders and the public.

“It’s important to remember that Congress, not BLM, actually makes the decision about including segments in the Wild and Scenic River System,” Robertson said. 

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 to preserve selected rivers or sections in their free-flowing condition to protect “the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.” To be eligible for Wild and Scenic River designation, a river or stream segment must possess one or more “outstandingly remarkable values,” have sufficient water quality to support those values, and be free-flowing. 

River segments determined to be eligible are afforded interim protective management under BLM authorities until a suitability study is completed. The Resource Management Plan revision process and suitability analysis is scheduled to be completed in 2011. 

Public involvement in the suitability study will continue through the Resource Management Plan revision process. More information about this process is available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo/rmp.html

The Cache La Poudre River is the only river in Colorado with segments currently included in the Wild and Scenic River system. For more information on Wild and Scenic Rivers, visit http://www.nps.gov/rivers/

-BLM-

Grand Junction Field Office
Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Study

FACT SHEET
 
What is Wild and Scenic River Designation?
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was passed in 1968 to preserve selected rivers or sections in their free-flowing condition to protect “the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes.” Only Congress can make Wild and Scenic River designations.

Why is BLM conducting this Wild and Scenic River Evaluation?
BLM is required by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to assess river and stream segments under its management jurisdiction as part of its Resource Management Plan revision process.

What segments were found to be eligible within the Grand Junction Field Office?
Chapter 4 of the Eligibility Report details the findings and includes maps. The following rivers and streams had eligible segments on BLM lands:

Colorado River (3 Segments)
Dolores River
 Dolores River
 North Fork Mesa
Blue Creek
Dominguez Canyons and Little Dominguez (4 Segments)
Gunnison River (2 Segments)
Little Dolores River
Roan Creek and Carr Creek
Rough Canyon
Unaweep Canyon
 East Creek
 West creek
North Fork West Creek
Ute Creek


What is the difference between the eligibility study and the suitability study?
To be designated as Wild and Scenic, a segment must have been determined to be both eligible and suitable. The eligibility study was done as baseline data for the RMP revision. It focused on the specific eligibility criteria described below. The suitability study will incorporate analysis of current and future uses (see below) of the eligible stream segments and will be included in the Draft RMP revision and will take into account land ownership constraints, potential competing uses of land and water, cost of acquiring lands, water rights, local and state plans, etc. The Draft RMP revision will analyze a range of possible management alternatives, including Wild and Scenic River recommendations.

What are the criteria for a stream segment to be eligible?
To be eligible for Wild and Scenic River designation, a river or stream segment must possess one or more “outstandingly remarkable value,” have sufficient water quality to support those values, and be free-flowing. Outstandingly remarkable values could be scenic, recreational, geological, fish related, wildlife related, historic, cultural, botanical, hydrological, paleontological, or scientific.

How will BLM management change as a result of this eligibility determination?
BLM’s policy is to protect any outstandingly remarkable values identified in the eligibility study until a decision on suitability can be made. BLM must protect the free-flowing character, tentative classification of the segment (based on the level of stream corridor development), and identified outstandingly remarkable values of eligible segments. Future BLM management actions will conform with interim protective management until a decision on suitability is made. 

How does BLM define “free-flowing”?  
Free flowing does not mean that the stream has a completely natural flow regime.   It means that within the analyzed stream segment, there are no dams or diversion structures that impound a significant amount of water for extended periods of time. Congress has designated Wild and Scenic Rivers immediately below major storage projects, even though the natural flow regime has been changed significantly by the project.

What specifically will be looked at during the suitability study?
During the suitability phase, the BLM will analyze all of the potentially competing uses for each segment, potential management prescriptions for each segment, and the positive and negative impacts of various management approaches. The process identifies how stream-related values can best be protected and enhanced. It fully considers the impact possible to other values, such as water supply.  During this process, the federal agencies consider alternative approaches to managing water-dependent values, fully recognizing that wild and scenic river designation may not be the only way to protect these values. 

How will stakeholder and public involvement be incorporated into the suitability determination?
The suitability process is designed to be a highly inclusive process.  Personnel with knowledge in oil and gas development, grazing, water rights and water supply, and policy analysis must be involved for this analysis to be successfully completed. The suitability process will be conducted as part of the RMP revision process.

When will the suitability phase be complete?
The suitability phase is scheduled to be completed by with the completion of the RMP revision in 2011.

Do BLM’s eligibility and suitability determinations create any federal water rights to protect the outstandingly remarkable values? 
No. A federal water right is not created unless Congress designates a stream segment as a Wild and Scenic River.

How could a BLM suitability determination affect a future water supply project? 
If BLM determines that a stream segment is suitable, it cannot take any actions that would significantly impact the outstandingly remarkable values, water quality, and free-flowing nature of the stream segment.   If a proposed water supply project is located within a suitable stream segment, the project proponent can request that BLM amend its resource management plan to allow the project to be built.   BLM may or may not grant that request, based upon an analysis of the importance of the water supply project relative to the impact it would have on outstandingly remarkable values, water quality, and free-flowing nature of the stream segment.