Many organizations in this region have worked hard in recent years to attack tamarisk, the non-native scourge of riverbanks and creek bottoms in the arid Southwest.
They’re preparing now to do battle again, with tamarisk beetles raised at the Palisade Insectary among their most potent weapons. Legions of foot soldiers will also use chain saws and chemicals to reduce the number of tamarisk sucking water from the Colorado River system.
It is difficult an dirty work, and we commend those engaged in the effort, whether they work for local and state governments, federal agencies, the local Tamarisk Coalition or other nonprofit organizations.
A possible $5 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to eradicate tamarisk along the Colorado River through Mesa County is also welcome news — or it would be if the grant didn’t come with some very large strings attached.
First, the Army Corps wants to deal with a single entity for oversight of the money, but no single agency is responsible for the entire length of the river being considered for the use of the money. There are municipalities — Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita — that control parts of the river corridor. Other portions are in unincorporated Mesa County. Colorado State Parks manages parts of the riverbank, as does the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is in charge of a substantial portion of the river corridor in the western part of the county.
What’s more, the Army Corps wants whatever group is designated as the lead agency to ensure the lands cleared of tamarisk remain tamarisk-free in perpetuity. But tamarisk is an extremely resilient plant. Short of denuding the riverfront entirely of all vegetation, it’s all but impossible to guarantee tamarisk won’t return. It would require a substantial amount of funding to treat tamarisk regrowth each year and prevent new plants from taking root.
Tamarisk eradication methods have improved considerably over the past decade, and the tamarisk beetle is one of the most promising tools.
More financial resources to continue the tamarisk fight are always needed. But the Tamarisk Coalition and its members organizations have every right to be hesitant about accepting money that has unachievable conditions tied to it.