Group mulls federal funds for clearing Colorado tamarisk

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. ” Groups trying to eradicate tamarisk from a 56-mile stretch of the Colorado River in western Colorado could apply for a $5 million federal grant, but they can’t decide who should be in charge of the project.

The Tamarisk Coalition must appoint a lead agency to coordinate the efforts. The coalition says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has funding available, doesn’t want to work with all 12 partners in the group.

A catch is that the lead agency would be responsible for keeping the land cleared of tamarisk trees forever.

The city of Grand Junction is the program’s lead sponsor, but is reluctant to become the prime sponsor because it doesn’t have the resources or a stake in all 56 miles, said Tim Carlson, research and policy analyst for the Tamarisk Coalition.

Tamarisk, also known as salt cedar, was brought to the U.S. in the 1800s as an ornamental tree and to protect stream banks from erosion. The nonnative species has no known natural controls and has proliferated, sucking up water and choking out native plants.

To get the grant, the coalition is asking its partners for a total of $10,000 to study the best ways to get rid of the trees and determine how much each member of the coalition should spend on the program.

A report by the Tamarisk Coalition said a single tamarisk tree can consume 200 gallons of water a day. The report said the Arkansas River and communities that depend on its water, including Colorado Springs, are losing more than 17 trillion gallons of water per year to tamarisk.

Efforts to eliminate tamarisk trees along the Colorado River are getting help from some bugs. Asian beetles that eat only tamarisk that were released in Utah to chew on the plants there have migrated east into Colorado.