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CVWD Application

ATTACHMENT B

SPECIAL STATUS SPECIES

Affected Environment

Twenty-seven sensitive, unique, and protected plant and animal species may occur in the

project area. The area is occupied by the federally endangered Yuma clapper rail and desert pupfish, and the federally threatened Mojave population of the desert tortoise may occur m the project area.

Attachment C presents a more detailed description of the 27 special status species. Of these, four candidate plant species have the potential to occur along the canal where construction would occur.

Federally Listed Species

Yuma Clapper Rail.- The federally endangered Yuma clapper rail inhabits freshwater marshes along the lower Colorado River from near the Nevada-California border to the Colorado Delta region of Mexico, marshes near the Salton Sea, and scattered locations in the Imperial Valley of California and east on the Gila River to central Arizona. Dense cattails are required for nesting and crayfish are usually the major food source.

Yuma clapper rails have been found in the marsh habitat in the Salt Creek complex near Dos Palmas Spring. Surveys by Reclamation indicated that at least 8 to 14 Yuma clapper rails occur in this area, and nesting is presumed to occur.

Desert Pupfish.- The desert pupfish was once more widely distributed in the desert Southwest. In California, its habitat has been reduced to limited portions of the Salton Sea and a few of its tributaries, as shown in figure III-7.(Figure III-7: Distribution of desert pupfish and designated critical habitat around the Salton Sea, California). Reasons for its decline include the introduction of exotic fish species that prey on or compete with desert pupfish for food and space. Desert pupfish occur in the Dos Palmas branch of Salt Creek and below its confluence with Salt Creek in areas of slow, shallow water with an abundance of rooted aquatic plants. Recent introductions of tilapia may be reducing the population of pupfish in this area. Desert pupfish also occur at Oasis Springs.

Razorback Sucker.- The razorback sucker, a fish native to the Colorado River Basin, was listed as an endangered species in 1991. Decline of this species probably is primarily due to predation on young suckers by introduced fish species, such as green sunfish, largemouth bass, and bluegill. Razorback suckers are occasionally found in the lower Colorado River system, but they are generally very old individuals; reproduction is minimal, at best. The razorback sucker has not been observed in the Coachella Canal.

Desert Tortoise. - Mojave population of the desert tortoise, which occurs in California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, and northwestern Arizona, has been recently listed as threatened. This species is in jeopardy due to habitat destruction, illegal collection, predation on juvenile tortoises, and an upper respiratory disease. No tortoises have been found in the project area, but marginal habitat has been identified between siphons 22 and 23 and siphons 29 and 31.

Federal Candidate Species

FWS identified 24 category 1 and 2 Federal candidate species that could occur in the general project area. Candidate category 1 species include the California black rail and the flat-tailed horned lizard. Category 1 species are those for which sufficient information exists to support their listing as endangered or threatened. Category 2 species are those for which sufficient information to list the species as threatened or endangered is not available. Table 111-8 lists Federal candidate species dint may occur in the general project area.

Mammals.- Loss of breeding and roasting habitat has contributed to a decline of several species of bats in the desert Southwest. Three candidate bat species may forage by the Coachella Canal and the associated wetlands due to an abundance of flying insects. The bats could use any open water as drinking sites. The canal alignment does not provide any known breeding or roosting habitat for the candidate bat species.

The Yuma puma is associated with burro deer populations and other large mammals of the lower Colorado rivershed and adjacent mountains such as the Chocolate Mountains. Pumas way occur on occasion in the project area during the summer when burro deer use the canal as a water source.

Birds.- The California black rail, a category 1 candidate, was detected in the marsh areas of Salt Creek and in the marshes downstream from the Imperial Hot Mineral Spa during 1988 and 1989 surveys by Reclamation. Typical habitat in the project area consists of wet or shallowly flooded bulrush or cattail.

Other candidate bird species that may occasionally use the wetlands in the project area include the white-faced ibis, fulvous whistling duck, Swainson's hawk, ferruginous hawk. and tricolored blackbird. These species are associated with wetlands. The other candidate bird species would be unlikely to use the project area due to their habitat preferences for agricultural areas in the Imperial Valley.

Table Ill-a&emdash;Category 1 and 2 Fedoral candidate species
[W-wetlands; Cb-creosotebush: S-sand dunes:A-agricultural fields; Sf-salt flats: Aq-aquatics]
Species
Habitat
Remarks

Spotted bats
Greater mastiff bat
Occult bat
Yuma puma
California black rail
White-laced Ibis
Fulvous whistiling duck Swainson's hawk
Ferruginous hawk
Western snowy plover
Mountain plover
Long-billed Curlew
Tricolored blackbird
Colorado desert fringe-toed lizardFlat-tailed homed lizard
Silvery-leaved desert sunflower

Giant Spanish needles
Peirson's milkvetch
California ditaxis
Orocopia sage
Fairy duster
Andrew's dune scarab beetle

W
W
W
W
W
W, A
W
W. A. Cb
W. A. Cb
Sf
A
A
W
S
S
S

S
S
Gb
Cb
Cb
S

Potential for foraging and drinking
Potential for foraging and drinking
Potential for foraging and drinking
Occasional use possible
Marsh In breeding season
Rests in marshes, forages in fields
Cattail marshes
Perches in wetlands trees
Perches in wetlands trees
Nests on Salton Sea beaches
Bare, plowed fields
Flooded alfalfa fields
Rare, with flocks at red-wings
Loose windblown sand
Sand dunes
Imperial County, Yuma County
and northern New Mexico
Stable and active dunes
Mobile dune systems
Sandy washes
Desert washes and alluvial fans
Alluvial fans
Only in Sand Hills

Reptiles. - The flat-horned lizard us a category I candidate and is designated as fully protected by DFC. Optimal habitat for this species is open areas of fine, packed sand or desert pavement overlain with loose, fine, windblown sand within the creosotebush community. The species also inhabits sand dunes and barren day soil adjacent to sand. This type of habitat does not occur in the project area. No evidence of the flat-tailed horned lizard was found during recent surveys.

The Colorado desert fringe-toed lizard is a category 2 candidate that occupies fine, loose, windblown sand of dunes, flab, river banks and washes (Stebbins, 1985). The lizard is highly adapted to living in such areas, and it is not known to occur elsewhere. While it occurs in sandy areas along the first 49 miles of the Coachella Canal, suitable habitat does not exist along the section of canal to be lined.

Species Requiring Windblown Sand - Several candidate species that require windblown sand were identified as potentially occurring in the project area. including the Colorado desert hinge-toed lizard, brown-tassel trigonoscuta weevil, Andrew's dime scarab beetle, silvery-leafed desert sunflower, giant Spanish needles, arid Peirson's milkvetch. These species occur adjacent to the beginning of the Coachella Canal where it transects the Sand Hills but do not occur in the project area due to the absence of loose windblown sand habitat.

Orocopia sage has been found near the project area in the Orocopia and Chocolate Mountains and in marsh in the Salt Creek complex. It was not found during surveys adjacent to the Coachella Canal. Because of its distribution records, this species as a potentiaI to occur at the project site.

The fairyduster, a State-listed endangered plant species, has been reported on alluvial fans at low elevations in the Chocolate Mountains. It could potentially occur in the project area.