Lawmakers agree on endangered fish funding
As the House and Senate wrangled over the fiscal cliff, Democrats and Republicans found agreement on the four endangered fish of the Colorado River.
The Senate on Monday unanimously approved a measure reauthorizing the recovery program for four species of endangered fish in the Colorado River basin. Once it’s signed by President Barack Obama, the measure will remove a “significant uncertainty” for water users in the basin, said Chris Treese, spokesman for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.
The recovery program allows for the continued development of the river and its tributaries for irrigation, storage and other uses with the cooperation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state officials and other agencies.
“This is milestone legislation that ensures western Colorado’s two endangered fish recovery programs continue to shield present and future water users from the worst consequences of the Endangered Species Act,” Treese said.
Reauthorization clears the way for $25 million in spending on efforts to restore populations of the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and the bonytail.
Extending the authorization for the Upper Colorado and San Juan fish recovery programs includes reforms to reduce overhead costs and eliminate inefficient agency spending to ensure the success of the programs while minimizing the taxpayer investment, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., a cosponsor of the measure, H.R. 6060, said in a statement. He also said he was “optimistic that these programs can reach their goals in the coming years, recover the species at issue, and safeguard the economic well-being of our communities and jobs connected to these efforts.”
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said the measure, which he co-sponsored in the Senate, is “welcome news for Colorado’s rivers, wildlife, sportsmen and our economy.”
Extending the recovery program will ensure that hundreds of water projects in Colorado and other Western states will remain in compliance with federal law, Udall said.
The recovery program operates several facilities in the Grand Valley, including fish ladders on the Gunnison River south of Grand Junction and on the Colorado River in De Beque Canyon, recovery ponds in Horsethief Canyon and a fish passage at the mouth of De Beque Canyon.