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Hickenlooper, Romney Introduce Seven-year Extension of Fish Recovery Programs

Jul 11, 2023

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Mitt Romney introduced the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Reauthorization Act. The bill extends federal support for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program for seven years, which, combined, protect four threatened and endangered native fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins. Senators Bennet, Lujan, and Heinrich joined as original cosponsors. 

“Collaboration between Tribes, local communities, and state and federal leaders delivers results–reauthorizing these recovery programs is a no-brainer,” said Hickenlooper. “Our bill will bring certainty for water users, local stakeholders, program partners—and fish!”

“This legislation—which gives Utah the tools it needs to comply with complicated federal mandates—is a good model for successfully recovering endangered species,” said Senator Romney. “I’m proud to join my colleague from Colorado in reintroducing this bill, which will support Utah’s efforts to recover threatened and endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers.”

The legislation builds on the success of Hickenlooper and Romney’s Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act in the 117th Congress, which provided a one-year extension for the programs and was passed into law with the annual budget last December.

The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Reauthorization Act will:

  • Extend the Bureau of Reclamation’s participation in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs for seven years, providing certainty for Upper Basin water use and fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibility to Tribes.
  • Ensure continued Endangered Species Act compliance for 2,500 water projects spanning federal, Tribal, and non-federal jurisdiction, including every Bureau of Reclamation project upstream of Lake Powell.
  • Authorize up to $92 million for the Bureau of Reclamation to contribute annual cost shared funding for program implementation, continuing work to stock the threatened and endangered fish species, conduct research, manage habitat and river flows, combat nonnative species, and operate fish passages and hatcheries through fiscal year 2031.
  • Add up $50 million to the authorization ceiling for capital projects, which will fund infrastructure improvements essential to recovery of the endangered and threatened fish.
  • Enable program partners to deploy their own commitments, enlisting the Upper Basin states, Tribes, and non-federal partners to provide their own contributions to meet shared species recovery goals.

The fish recovery programs are widely celebrated success stories in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins. In November 2021, the Fish and Wildlife Service downlisted the humpback chub from “endangered” to “threatened” thanks to the recovery programs.


Colorado Governor Jared Polis: “On behalf of the State of Colorado, I thank you for your efforts to develop legislation reauthorizing federal cost sharing for the Upper Colorado and San Juan Endangered Fish Recovery Programs that are critical to the economy and environment of our state…Program partners have diligently worked to identify new funding mechanisms for these essential programs and the proposed Upper Colorado and San Juan Endangered Fish Recovery Act of 2023 will provide greater certainty to water users in the face of the Colorado River crisis.” 

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Chairman Manuel Heart: “The ESA can have a chilling effect on resource development, but the collaborative San Juan Recovery Implementation Program has allowed for both responsible water resource development and species protection since its creation in the 1990’s. This long term reauthorization bill is critical to keeping that dual benefit working effectively, and we strongly support Senator Hickenlooper introducing this bill, and we support its prompt enactment.”

Southern Ute Tribe Office of the Tribal Council Affairs: “The Recovery Implementation Program is a model for how states, tribes, water users, and Congress can work together to protect our environment. The fish recovery programs in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins have proven to be successful and reauthorizing the program would help the fish species and their habitats continue to prosper. The programs provide compliance with the Endangered Species Act for approximately 2,500 federal, state, local and tribal water projects, including every Reclamation project upstream of Lake Powell. This is a critical investment in our environment and our future.”

Nature Conservancy Colorado State Director Carlos Fernandez: “These programs are critically important to the successful recovery of four species of threatened and endangered fish across a large and meaningful geography throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin.  They also bring together a wide range of partners including states, Tribal Nations, farmers, ranchers, municipalities, conservation groups, and hydropower to collaborate on efforts that allow us to learn, adapt and make significant change. As we continue to face unprecedented drought within the Colorado River Basin, I want to thank Sen. Hickenlooper for his leadership to ensure these programs can continue to improve the health of this iconic river for many years to come.”

Colorado Water Congress Executive Director Douglas Kemper: “We greatly appreciate that the Colorado delegation is committed to these programs and is moving forward with legislation to sustain the two critical, multi-state cooperative endeavors. This bill will achieve the crucial goals of extending authorization for Reclamation to continue to provide cost sharing funding to the Recovery Programs for a period that is consistent with and most effective pursuant to the ESA, and of providing the funding necessary for the programs to achieve sufficient species protection to maintain reliable ESA compliance for Reclamation and other water projects throughout the two river basins.”

Colorado River Energy Distributors Association (CREDA) Executive Director Leslie James: “The Colorado River Energy Distributors Association (CREDA) has been a partner in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program since its authorization. Representing the majority of the firm electric service customers of the Colorado River Storage Project, CREDA members have provided capital and base funding support to this collaborative program and continue to support the Program’s role in providing ESA compliance for the federal multi-purpose projects (including Aspinall and Flaming Gorge Dams) while supporting recovery of the four endangered fish species.”

The legislation is also supported by the Colorado River District, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, the Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Utah Department of Natural Resources, the Ute Water Conservancy District, the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the San Juan Water Commission, the Dolores Water Conservancy District, the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, the Utah Water Users Association, Aurora Water, Western Resource Advocates, Denver Water, Jicarilla Apache Nation, American Rivers, Environmental Defense Fund, National Aududon Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Trout Unlimited.


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