WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) today introduced the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Reauthorization Act. The bill extends 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. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Bennet (D-CO), Lujan (D-NM), and Heinrich (D-NM). The legislation builds on the success of Romney and Hickenlooper’s Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act in the 117th Congress, which provided a one year extension for the programs and passed into law with the annual budget last December.
“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.”
“These programs show how collaboration between Tribes, local communities, and state and federal leaders delivers results–reauthorizing them is a no-brainer,” said Senator Hickenlooper. “Our bill will bring certainty for water users, local stakeholders, program partners—and fish!.”
The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Reauthorization Act will:
- Extend 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.
“We appreciate the work that has taken place to preserve and protect the four native fish that are found only in the Colorado River basin. This proposed legislation and continued funding are essential to the ongoing recovery efforts of these endangered and threatened species while also allowing Utah to keep using our approved water allocations in the Colorado River basin.” – Utah Governor Spencer Cox
“This proposed legislation allows the Colorado River recovery programs to continue to provide Endangered Species Act compliance for 2,500 federal, non-federal and tribal water projects in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. We are proud to be part of these unique and collaborative programs that help preserve and protect these native fish species for future generations to enjoy while also balancing the water needs from the Colorado River basin.” – Joel Ferry, Executive Director, Utah Department of Natural Resources
“The Central Utah Water Conservancy District is appreciative of Senator Romney and Senator Hickenlooper’s efforts to continue the federal cost sharing for these recovery programs in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins. This funding will continue the successful preservation and recovery of four endangered and threatened fish species and will allow the programs to continue to provide Endangered Species Act compliance for 2,500 federal, non-federal, and tribal water projects in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.” – Gene Shawcroft, General Manager and CEO, Central Utah Water Conservancy District