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Hickenlooper, Romney, Neguse Bill Would Protect Endangered Native Fish Species, Help Maintain River Ecosystems

Feb 17, 2022

Bipartisan bill would help protect four endangered fish species native to the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Mitt Romney introduced the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act to continue protecting four threatened and endangered native fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins. The legislation would extend current conservation programs by one year and allow Upper Basin communities the time to develop a long-term management plan. 

“We must protect native fish in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River. This bill shows how states, tribes, federal entities, and water users can come together to get things done,” said Hickenlooper, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 

“I’m proud to team up with my colleague from Colorado to support Utah’s efforts to continue the recovery of the threatened and endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers. This program has broad buy in from stakeholders in the eastern part of our state and represents an example of what successfully recovering endangered species looks like,” said Romney. 

“In the West, unprecedented drought and climate-induced wildfires have drawn great urgency to the way we steward and protect our water resources,” said Congressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. “That’s why we introduced the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act to ensure that critical water infrastructure projects in Colorado can continue operating while we protect and safeguard endangered species in these River Basins. We were grateful to see this legislation pass out of the House Natural Resources Committee late last year and are thrilled to now have the partnership of Senators Hickenlooper and Romney leading the way in the Senate.”

The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Programs work to recover four threatened and endangered fish species: the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. These different species of fish help contribute to an overall healthy river ecosystem that benefits both people and nature. 

Specifically the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act would: 

  • Extend programs which currently study, monitor, and stock the fish, manage habitat and river flows, and combat invasive species.
  • Authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to continue funding and implementing the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs for one extra year, through 2024. The programs are currently set to expire on September 30, 2023.
  • Extend the Department of Interior’s reporting deadline by one year, to September 2022. Reporting includes program accomplishments, funds spent, and projected expenditures.
  • Create the ability to transfer funds from San Juan Basin to Upper Colorado Recovery programs by shifting capital cost ceilings, keeping the total cost constant.

Full bill text is available HERE.  Congressman Joe Neguse introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives in August 2021, which passed out of the House Natural Resource Committee in November 2021.

The bill is supported by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, Colorado Water Congress, Colorado River District, Dolores Water Conservancy District, San Juan Water Commission, Southwestern Water Conservation District, Utah Water Users Association, Grand Valley Water Users Association, Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Denver Water, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District – Municipal Subdistrict, Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Tri-State, Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, Western Resource Advocates, Colorado Springs Utilities, Aurora Water, City of Farmington, City of Greeley, and The Nature Conservancy.

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