Skip to comments.Biological opinion favors Fort Huachuca's water efforts
Posted on 04/05/2014 7:17:31 AM PDT by SandRat
FORT HUACHUCA Current and potential future operations on this southern Arizona Army post do not threaten endangered species on and off the installation. That is the finding of a biological opinion signed Monday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
FWS concluded that the Armys ongoing and planned operations are not likely to jeopardize the continued survival or recovery of any threatened and endangered and proposed species or result in adverse modification of existing or proposed critical habitat, on-post or in the nearby San Pedro and Babocomari rivers, a joint FWS and fort press release on Friday stated.
Whether the Biological Diversity Center, which has filed or threatened numerous suits in the past, will now contest the non-jeopardy finding, is unknown.
A Friday call to Dr. Robin Silver, the founder and a board member of the center, was not returned by press time.
However, in the past, Silver has attacked Fort Huachuca and FWS for failing to do a proper biological opinion.
The joint press release acknowledged this is the fourth Endangered Species Act programmatic-level and BO (biological opinion) of the forts operations.
The most recent was the 2007 BO which was remanded by (a) federal court in 2011, which led to the fort and FWS staff to update and assess the forts hydrological and biological effects, the press release stated.
In past legal filings, Silver has contended the forts population and operations are harming a number of species and destroying the San Pedro River, which is an important aspect of protecting endangered and threatened species such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and the Huachuca water umbel.
FWS spokesman Jeff Humphrey said since the 2007 court ruling the federal agency and the fort have been working on the issues, with the post leadership officially requesting consultation in January, of this year The Center for Biological Diversity put the fort and FWS on notice of legal action is the BO wasnt completed because of the lengthy time the two federal entities have been reviewing the 2007 decision after the court ordered a new one in 2011.
Humphrey went on to note there have been many examples of the post and FWS working on the issues, going back to 1988.
The current BO not only includes species listed by environmental groups, but those which may be listed in the future as being endangered or threatened, Humphrey said.
Steve Spangler, FWS Arizona field supervisor said, The fort continues its superb job of furthering endangered species conservation, continuing to be a crucial partner in species recovery.
And although the current consultation is done, the fort is completing additional water management conservation easements to protect San Pedro and Babocomari river flows and riparian habitat,Spangler said.
Garrison commander Col. Dan McFarland said, We are committed to continuing our water conservation and mitigation efforts.
However, Silver has stressed through numerous legal proceedings over the years the forts water use and its impact off the installation is a major reason endangered and threatened species are being jeopardized.
On page 19, of the 463 page biological opinion it noted although the forts population has increased its groundwater pumping has declined due to aggressive water conservation programs.
Additionally it was noted, The historical employee population has ranged between about 10,000 and 16,000 personnel since 1992. Because Fort Huachuca is primarily a mission-focused and tenant-based post, the population has and will likely continue to fluctuate in response to mission needs. This normal population fluctuation will continue as the Fort responds to Army and national defense requirements.
Humphrey noted the formula of the posts water use is based on savings and capture plus the forts attributable ground water demands plus newly acquired water through deed and conservation easements.
As part of the determination process, easements obtained by the fort to lessen water pumping impacts are an important part of the decision process to ascertain what happens on the post, doesnt jeopardize critters or plants,Humphrey said.
We’ve been waiting a long time for the BDC and Dr. Robin Silver to be told that.
There is no way to empirically prove it, but my intuition tells me that the decision would have been different if the land occupied bay Ft Huachuca was land occupied by a rancher with grazing rights.
They should have never closed Fort Devens, period. They wouldn’t be having this problem there.