Funding to Maintain Yuma East Wetlands Secured

2013-08-06 18:40:49

Maintenance funding for the Yuma East Wetlands has been secured for the next 50 years.

At a celebration Tuesday, project partners shared that the Yuma East Wetlands joined the Bureau of Reclamation’s Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program (MSCP).

The once overgrown and neglected 350 acres of wetlands has been recently revitalized, but the continued maintenance of the area is critical, said Charles Flynn, executive director of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.

The land was restored with $2.5 million in funding from the Arizona Water Protection Fund to support wildlife habitat and year-round recreation opportunities for visitors, complete with trails and picnic areas.

Flynn said when they began to look at the future of the project in 2009, their goal was to obtain funds to make sure the land would be irrigated and also to control some of the aggressive, non-native vegetation that was overwhelming existing plants.

“We didn’t want it to go back to the way it was, and this program will allow us to maintain it,” he said.

The Yuma East Wetlands Project is a collaboration between the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Quechan Indian Tribe, City of Yuma, Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and other state and federal stakeholders.

“Nearly 15 years ago, many so-called ‘experts’ thought that the wetlands restoration in Yuma was not technically feasible due to high soil salinity and low river water. Others were skeptical that the complicated land issues could be resolved by the many diverse land owners,” said Flynn. “I guess they just did not know Yuma… Yuma does things its own way.”

After much discussion among the participating stakeholders, a historic agreement was reached, making the Yuma East Wetlands a model for wetlands restoration in the desert Southwest.

Brian Golding Sr., director of Economic Development for the Quechan Tribe, added, “The Quechan Indian Tribe is the first tribe in the nation to allow something like this to happen, so it didn’t just happen like that. Through the commitment of everybody and through the words and deeds of everybody coming together, we were able to make this a reality.”

In order to not lose all that has been invested into the restoration project, MSCP will provide 70 percent of the annual maintenance funding and the other three partners involved will each provide 10 percent. The Heritage Area will manage the area and the Quechan Tribe and City of Yuma will continue to provide water for the project.

Flynn said that other key players in the project included local irrigation districts who have supported the project as well as people in the local agriculture industry who shared their expertise in subjects of laser leveling, flood irrigation and mass plantings.

Also, as the wetlands grow, the bird density and diversity in the area has increased. One of the most notable species observed is the endangered Yuma Clapper Rail.