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Fossil Creek on track for federal protection
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 17 October 2007 13:03

Fossil Creek may soon be protected by law, thanks to a bill being fast-tracked through the U.S. Senate by Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.].

The legislation would call for the unique springs and streams of the creek, 14 miles east of Camp Verde, to be designated a Wild and Scenic River, a federally-protected status that would keep the creek’s waters flowing for future generations.

The latest push for federal protection comes on the heels of Camp Verde Mayor Tony Gioia’s recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he met with McCain and other lawmakers to lobby for the protection of critical water resources in the Verde Valley.

“This is something we’ve all worked hard to achieve,” Gioia said.
It’s not the first time politicians have tried to use the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect Fossil Creek.

A similar bill introduced in Congress last year by McCain and U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi [R-Ariz.] failed to make its way through the crowded maze of red tape on Capitol Hill.

“We can only hope it happens this time,” said Jason Williams, regional director with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. “Fossil Creek has several outstanding and remarkable values that need to be protected. Just for the native fishery alone, it’s worth it.”

The creek is home to several native species of fish, including speckled dace and chub. Efforts have been ongoing to protect the native fish from non-native species that have been out-competing them for food and space, according to the National Forest Service.

The creek is one of the few waterways in Arizona with year-round flows.
Williams said that federal protection of the creek effectively means “no one can stick a straw in [the creek] and suck the water out.”

That’s important not only for people who enjoy the outdoors and want to use the creek for years to come, Williams said, but also for the local Yavapai and Apache who consider Fossil Creek a sacred site.

For a century, man had subverted the creek to create electricity. Most of its water was diverted to the Childs-Irving Hydroelectric power plant until Arizona Public Service pulled the plug on the facility in 2005.

The creek, noted for its year-round 70-degree water and travertine pools, would be only the second Wild and Scenic River in Arizona.

Part of the upper Verde River was given that designation in 1984. Getting the rest of the river protected is the next obstacle to overcome for water advocates, Gioia said.

“We have to take these one at a time,” Gioia said, citing the nature of politics. “Once we’ve taken care of Fossil Creek, we can look at the Verde River.”

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act protects 11,000 miles of 165 rivers in 38 states and Puerto Rico. According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, that’s about one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s rivers.

Mark Lineberger can be reached at 567-3341, or e-mail to
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