Partners Sign Gunnison Basin Selenium Management Program Memorandum of Understanding

Media Contact: Justyn Hock, (970) 248-0625
Steve McCall, (970) 248-0638

For Release: October 20, 2010

Reclamation announced today that a Memorandum of Understanding to form a Selenium Management Program in the Gunnison Basin was signed by federal and non-federal partners. The SMP is being formed based on the 2009 Gunnison River Basin Programmatic Biological Opinion released from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The PBO identifies a selenium issue in the lower Gunnison Basin and states "the ongoing operation of irrigation projects and other water uses in the basin will continue to contribute selenium to the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers at levels that adversely affect the endangered fishes and their designated critical habitat."

Selenium is a naturally occurring element that is required by all life at low concentrations. However, higher selenium concentration in streams and lakes can lead to reduced reproduction and deformities in fish and in waterfowl. Locally, selenium comes from the Mancos shale where it is picked up by water seeping from canals and ponds, and percolating through soils beneath irrigated fields and lawns. "Signing the MOU is important because it fulfills the first major milestone required by the PBO" said Carol DeAngelis, Reclamation's Western Colorado Area Office manager. "The partners in the MOU have agreed to work together to find ways to reduce selenium in the Gunnison Basin."

The goal of the SMP is to reduce adverse effects of selenium on endangered fish species in the Gunnison and Colorado rivers. This goal will be achieved by incorporating and accelerating ongoing irrigation system improvement efforts and other programs in the Uncompahgre Valley and other portions of the lower Gunnison River Basin to reduce the amount of selenium in the river.

Partners of the MOU include: Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Colorado River Water Conservation District, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.

# # #

Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.