Twenty sections on shortlist for river designation

Three stretches of the Colorado River are among 20 river and stream segments in the Grand Junction area the Bureau of Land Management has determined are eligible for the federal Wild and Scenic River designation.

The action clears the way to study their suitability for the designation.

A report the BLM announced Tuesday said a 19-mile stretch of the Colorado River in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction is eligible for the designation, as is a 7.3-mile portion in De Beque Canyon and a 1.3-mile portion downstream of the Grand Valley Diversion Dam.

Some other segments identified as candidates for designation are parts of the Gunnison River upstream and downstream of Whitewater, portions of the Dolores and Little Dolores
rivers, more than 16 miles of Big Dominguez Creek, and 15 miles of Little Dominguez Creek.

Just last week, President Barack Obama signed a bill that created the 210,000-acre Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area, which includes the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, consisting of more than 60,000 acres.

The Wild and Scenic River Act was passed in 1968 and is intended to protect rivers and streams in their free-flowing condition. To be eligible, river and stream segments must not only be free-flowing but possess one or more “outstandingly remarkable values” and have adequate water quality to support those values.

The BLM’s new eligibility report, available at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/gjfo/rmp.html, looked at 117 river and stream segments. It is the first step in an evaluation being conducted by the agency’s Grand Junction Field Office, which oversees 1.2 million acres.

The next step is a suitability study that will involve gathering public comment and considering potentially conflicting uses that could keep the BLM from recommending that Congress grant some of the segments wild and scenic protective status.

All 20 segments will be provided interim protection while further study is completed.

The wild and scenic study is occurring as part of the BLM’s revision of its resource management plan for the Grand Junction area, a project scheduled to be finished in 2011.

Other eligible stretches are found on North Fork Mesa and Blue creeks in the Dolores River watershed; Roan and Carr creeks outside De Beque; Rough Canyon Creek south of Grand Junction; and East Creek, West Creek, Ute Creek and the North Fork of West Creek in Unaweep Canyon.


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