US Senate Passes Bennet, Gardner Bill to Extend Platte River Recovery Implementation Program
Bill Focuses on Recovery of At-Risk Species and Provides Water Users in Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska with Regulatory Certainty
Denver – On December 19th, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill introduced by Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) to extend the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP) as part of the year-end spending package. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week and will now go to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
“The Platte River in Colorado is the bedrock of our economy and the headwaters for a unique and important ecosystem. The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program has helped protect endangered species through a collaborative approach with other states and water users in the region,” said Bennet. “I’m glad to see this effective program extended.”
“The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program has responsibly protected endangered species living in Colorado’s natural habitats,” said Gardner. “It’s a great example of how a partnership between federal, state, and local stakeholders can promote conservation, protect nature and prevent litigation, and I’m pleased to see it reauthorized.”
“Over the past decade, the Platte Program has become a model for collaborative endangered species recovery programs,” said Jason Farnsworth, Executive Director of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program. “Much of our success stems from the commitment and ongoing support of Program stakeholders who have demonstrated that environmental groups, water users and regulators can work together to benefit the endangered species of the Platte basin and the people who live here. We are appreciative of the time and effort that has already been expended to navigate the legislative process and look forward to continuing the Program’s important work during the Extension.”
“The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program is an important partnership with resounding benefits to Colorado’s economy,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The Program allows for water development in Colorado’s booming Front Range and supports our farming communities in Northeastern Colorado all while benefiting the recovery of four threatened and endangered species. This collaborative and proactive conservation program stands as a national model and has led to 13 years of success. I lend my full support for the reauthorization of this Program”
In April, Bennet and Gardner, along with U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), introduced the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program Extension Act. The Platte River Recovery Implementation Program (PRRIP) is a cooperative agreement among the governors of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and the Secretary of the Interior to achieve Endangered Species Act compliance on the Platte River. PRRIP also allows new and existing water use and development through this streamlined consultation process.
The program was initiated to alleviate habitat threats along the Platte River for the endangered whooping crane, interior least tern and pallid sturgeon, and the threatened piping plover. A recent announcement from the Fish and Wildlife Service credited the PRRIP with helping to recover the interior least tern.
In addition to addressing protections under the federal Endangered Species Act, PRRIP has allowed the three states and the Department of Interior to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation involving the Endangered Species Act. The program has provided a level of certainty to water users in the Platte River drainage that litigation would not have afforded.
PRRIP was authorized by Congress in 2008. The first increment of the program is set to expire on December 31, 2019. S. 990 extends the program by an additional 13 years. The legislation was developed by the three state representatives on the Governance Committee and enjoys broad bipartisan support from lawmakers, water users, conservation groups, and the administration.