Five Projects will Receive Funding Through the Western Watershed Enhancement Program From Bureau of Reclamation

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Projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho and Washington will receive a total of $482,967 in funding to promote watershed health and wildfire resiliency, protect municipal and agricultural water supplies, and improve infrastructure through the Western Watershed Enhancement Program.

Through the Western Watershed Enhancement Program, more landscapes in western watersheds and forests will remain healthy and resilient to risks associated with drought and climate changes, such as wildfires.

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Estevan López says five projects will receive a total of $482,967 in funding to promote watershed health and wildfire resiliency, protect municipal and agricultural water supplies, and improve infrastructure through the Western Watershed Enhancement Program across five western states. The funding awarded will support projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho and Washington.

"Reclamation is collaborating with others to ensure a sustainable water supply for our future generations," Commissioner Estevan López said. "Through the Western Watershed Enhancement Program, more landscapes in western watersheds and forests will remain healthy and resilient to risks associated with drought and climate changes, such as wildfires."

These projects will help improve watershed health, reduce wildfire risk and post-wildfire erosion and sedimentation through rehabilitation of fire-damaged areas; restore wildlife habitat; and investigate watershed enhancement methods.

Below are overviews of the funded projects:

Cragin Watershed Protection Project (Arizona): Reclamation is providing $76,739 toward this project to remove hazardous fuels from overstocked forest stands, which will reduce fire threats. It includes mechanical and hand treatments on 39,000 acres and prescribed fires on 64,000 acres to reduce risks within and adjacent to the three sub-watersheds that drain into Cragin Reservoir. The project will also advance field work to address environmental impacts. This project is a collaborative effort among the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, Salt River Project and National Forest Foundation.

Hemlock Project (California): Reclamation is providing $96,084 toward this project to support a 12,000-acre watershed enhancement study on the Stanislaus National Forest at the headwaters of the Mokelumne River. The Project partners Reclamation with the Forest Service and the University of California and is part of the larger Sierra Watershed Ecosystem Enhancement Project (SWEEP). Its goal is to produce a quantitative assessment of the impacts of watershed enhancement approaches that is scalable across the Sierra Nevada and potentially other forests.

Glacier Creek to Mill Creek Fuel Reduction Project (Colorado): Reclamation is providing $84,500 toward the reduction of fuel loads to help prevent wildfires from spreading and improve watershed health by focusing on enhancing existing fire barriers such as roads, trails and rivers on 210 acres in Rocky Mountain National Park in the headwaters of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. This is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Headwaters Partnership, a collaborative effort among the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, the State of Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Western Area Power Administration and Northern Water Conservancy District.

Boise River Pilot Project (Idaho): Reclamation is providing $70,000 toward two distinct projects in the Boise River watershed to minimize post-fire erosion and sediment loads, stabilize soils and establish more fire-resilient forests and habitats. Funding will go toward planting 17,000 seedlings, which amount to about 200 trees per acre over 85 acres; removing non-native invasive species on 200 to 400 acres of land, which are flourishing in post-fire conditions; and restoring native, fire-resistant vegetation. These are two components of a broader watershed improvement partnership between the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service in the Boise River Basin.

Yakima Watershed Enhancement Project (Washington): Reclamation is providing $150,644 toward this project to reduce wildfire risk on 730 acres of land within the catchment basin that flows into Rimrock Reservoir in Washington state. These treatments help reduce the potential for large-scale wildfires and associated post-fire impacts such as entry of sediment, debris and contamination into water supplies and facilities. Additional support for this project is also being provided by the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Department of Natural Resources and the Yakima Nation.

The Western Watershed Enhancement Partnership was formally established in July 2013, by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. It is a part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, outlining a comprehensive approach to prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, including increased risk of wildfires and drought.

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Peter Soeth
Bureau of Reclamation
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