Corps puts $5 million on table for removal if valley officials do $10,000 study
A $5 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to eradicate tamarisk from a 56-mile stretch of the Colorado River, from the Utah state line past Palisade, is being debated among Grand Valley political leaders and conservationists.
In order to get the grant, the Tamarisk Coalition is asking its partners in the Grand Valley for $10,000 to study how best to eradicate the nonnative species and determine how much each member of the coalition should spend on the program. In addition the coalition needs to appoint a lead agency — such as Mesa County, Grand Junction, a new nonprofit or an existing nonprofit such as the Mesa Land Trust — to coordinate efforts.
The city of Grand Junction is the lead sponsor of the program, but because it does not have the resources or a stake in all 56 miles, it is reluctant to become the prime sponsor of the program, said Tim Carlson, former director and current research and policy analyst for the Tamarisk Coalition.
“The Corps of Engineers does not want to work with 12 partners, just the one,” he said.
To assess the options, the Tamarisk Coalition is asking for money from each of its partners: $4,000 apiece from Mesa County and Grand Junction; $800 from Palisade; and $400 each from Fruita and Clifton Water.
The possibility of a $5 million grant from the Corps is good news for the coalition, but it comes with financial concerns. The big catch in the Corps’ Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration grant is that whatever entity becomes the lead agency will be responsible for keeping land cleared of tamarisk forever.
“In order to meet the terms of the grant, you can’t let (tamarisk) come back,” said Tom Fisher, Mesa County’s director of regional services.
That would require an unknown commitment of resources on top of the initial $10,000 in seed money. The money would pay for a study to compare alternatives and costs of the program.
“What takes effort is to establish what the proposed long-term budgets would be or the physical requirements would be for each of the entities,” Carlson said. “Until that is all laid out, it is difficult for anybody to say this is what we are getting involved in.”