March 15, 2022

Neguse Proposal to Protect Wildlife and Advance Local Water Projects Passes the House

The legislation protects critically endangered species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins

Washington D.C.— Today, Congressman Joe Neguse’s bill to protect wildlife in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins and support water infrastructure passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Actsafeguards four endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin and allows critical water infrastructure projects to continue. 

“These successful recovery programs are the result of states, tribes and water users coming together to ensure we are advancing local water projects and protecting the fish that are native to the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins. And as our state experiences unprecedented drought and damaging western wildfires, continuing water development while preserving species is even more important,” saidCongressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. “I am thrilled that we were able to pass this critical piece of legislation through the House today to renew the conservation program and continue community collaboration and preservation.”

“Colorado thanks Representative Neguse for championing this important bill and Congress’ long-standing support for the Colorado River Basin endangered fish recovery programs. These programs help protect our water resources and ensure that the people who use our waters will have roles in shaping the future of the Colorado River and its tributaries,” said Governor Jared Polis on the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act.

“The Upper Colorado River Program continues to be an exemplary endangered species recovery program,” said Northern Water General Manager, Bradley Wind. "It demonstrates a commitment toward reestablishing four critically important native fish species in the Upper Basin, while simultaneously providing operational certainty to agricultural, municipal, and industrial water users relying on crucial water supplies throughout the basin.”

“The Colorado Water Congress appreciates Congressman Neguse’s continued leadership and sponsorship of H.R.5001, the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act.  This important program provides ESA compliance while allowing important water projects to proceed,” said the Colorado Water Congress, Federal Affairs Committee.

“Few things in the West are as essential as water.  The sustainability of our communities, agriculture, and natural ecology are interdependent, and we are truly thrilled to see this legislation from Rep. Neguse moving through Congress that will ensure the reauthorization of the popular Upper Colorado Recovery Program (H.R.5001),” said Sean Chambers, Director of Water & Sewer, City of Greeley. “This important bill allows more than 2,000 important water projects to operate while recovering and protecting endangered fish species in the area. This bill will benefit all Colorado water users and protect wildlife in our region.”

“The recent down-listing of the Humpback chub from endangered to threatened status is evidence of successful cooperation through the Colorado Basin endangered fish recovery programs,” said Rebecca Mitchell, Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). “Thanks to Representative Neguse’s championship and bipartisan Congressional support, there is a path to ensuring that states, Tribal Nations, federal agencies, and private water users can continue to work together to improve conditions for native fish, while protecting water resources in the Colorado River and its tributaries.”

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.

The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Melanie Stansbury (D-NM), and Chris Stewart (R-UT). The bill is supported by the Colorado Water Congress, Colorado Springs Utilities, Aurora Water, City of Farmington, NM, City of Greeley, 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, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Tri-State, Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, and others. Read letters of support here

In 2019, Congressman Neguse enacted similar legislation into law to reauthorize the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, a program that protects wildlife in the Platte River Basin and coordinates with local water development.

Read bill text HERE.


The Upper Colorado River Basin is home to 14 native fish species, including the endangered humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. These endangered fish are found only in the Colorado River system.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program was first established in 1988 to help bring four species of endangered fish back from the brink of extinction: the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. The Recovery Program is a unique partnership of local, state, and federal agencies, water and power interests, and environmental groups working to recover endangered fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts.

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program was established in 1992, and similarly works to protect these endangered fish in the San Juan River sub-basin, a part of the larger Upper Colorado River Basin.