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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Planet Ranch

MISERS BLUFF was a Defense Nuclear Agency test to determine the near simultaneous blast effects on the MX buried trench and multiple aim point basing concepts. It consisted of 7 tests of 120 tons each at Planet Ranch in 1978, six of which were detonated simultaneously in MISERS BLUFF II.

The Bill Williams River is in most places a perennial stream that flows from Alamo Lake into Lake Havasu. There are several ranches along the river including the Lincoln Ranch and Planet Ranch in La Paz County. Both of these ranches are posted no trespassing so hunters do not enter them without the landowners' permission. The property covers approximately 8,400-acres, and is currently owned by the City of Scottsdale who has a diversionary water rights claim of 14,400 acre-feet/year for the site. Planet Ranch is divided into farm fields which are equipped with a variety of irrigation systems, such as flooding, wheel lines, and pivot and solid set sprinklers. In addition, the site houses several buildings, including residential structures used for onsite staff accommodations.

Scottsdale owns Planet Ranch and its 14,000 acre-feet of Bill Williams River water. The ranch is located nearly 200 miles from the City of Scottsdale. City Council members had thought they could solve the City's water problems by purchasing a water farm in hopes of utilizing its ground water for future needs. The city of Scottsdale's purchase of the Planet Ranch is one of the most controversial examples of environmental damage by water farming. The ranch pumps water from the large shallow aquifer supplied by the Bill Williams River and raises thousands of acres of crops. Scottsdale had plans to increase the water reserves originally held by the Planet Ranch by acquiring an additional 75,000 acre-feet (92,510 ML) of excess flood flows from Alamo Lake upstream, which recharge the aquifer. Planet Ranch never produced much but debt. In 1996 the Scottsdale City Council accepted a $25 million bid for its Planet Ranch property from Denver based P&L Investors, but the deal later fell through.

A number of cultural and potentially historic sites exist within the property boundaries, mainly related to historical mining claims and are mostly located on the hilltops, outside of the farming area. Three documented cultural sites are located within the farming area, however they are outside the physical field boundaries, and therefore will not restrict habitat creation within the farm area as it currently exists.

In February 2005 Planet Ranch was evaluated to determine the acreages and habitat types which could be created in support of the lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Plan (LCR MSCP). The ranch is located on the Bill Williams River floodplain, immediately upstream and adjacent to the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge, which supports groundwater-dependant riparian, marsh, and mesquite habitat. The site was analyzed to determine what opportunities and constraints exist for habitat creation. Using existing data and some basic assumptions, a conceptual design plan was developed which sought to balance the needs to maximize habitat in support of the LCR MSCP, while minimizing the risks of impacting habitat at refuge downstream.

The Bureau of Reclamation's design objective was to produce a conceptual design which maximized the acreages of MSCP-covered habitat types, while minimizing potential for downstream impacts to groundwater-dependant riparian, marsh, and mesquite habitat on BWNWR, resulting from groundwater withdrawal at Planet Ranch for site irrigation purposes. To accomplish this, Reclamation compared water consumption of the site's previous alfalfa production and the habitat restoration activities proposed for the site. This comparative assessment helped to determine the total acreage of downstream habitat which could be protected by converting the ranch for MSCP purposes.

To accommodate a short time-frame, the plans presented in this assessment have been based entirely upon pre-existing GIS data acquired from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Water Resources Branch, as well as vegetation evapotranspiration rates (ET) for the proposed habitat types provided by the Lower Colorado River Accounting System (LCRAS). Single and multiple attribute analyses of the GIS data were used to determine the layout by habitat type based on the presently known site conditions. This assessment is a living document, which will continue to be revised as more information becomes available, or as design assumptions are modified.

Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service previously collaborated1 to determine the potential acreage of habitat that could be created at Planet Ranch, as well as an estimate of the acreage of downstream habitat that could be protected on Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge (BWNWR) due to the water savings that would be realized through agricultural conversion to wildlife habitat. This report categorized the ranch into three "restoration potential categories" based on a combination of depth to groundwater and soil moisture data that was presumed to support riparian and upland habitat. This analysis focused primarily on promoting tree survival, and not necessarily on willow flycatcher habitat, as defined by the MSCP. The categories encompass the site's existing houses and maintenance facilities, as well as the Bill Williams floodplain. In order to further narrow the current analysis to economically and logistically feasible areas, only the field areas located within these Restoration Categories were selected.

The farm area is currently divided into 45 fields (2205 acres), 15 of which are flood-irrigated (428 acres). Eleven production wells supply the fields. Additionally, 21 monitoring wells are located adjacent to the fields for monitoring groundwater behavior. Flood irrigation is the preferred method for cultivating cottonwood-willow habitat because of the difficulties with sprinkler-irrigating trees, as well as the ability to provide the requisite moist soil conditions for creating willow flycatcher habitat. Fifteen fields already have flood irrigation systems in place. The remaining thirty-one fields would need to be contoured and retrofitted with flood-irrigation systems installed.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 03:42:45 ZULU