Senate Began Debate on the Bill This Week
Washington, D.C. - The Senate this week began debate on a bill to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which includes a provision backed by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to protect Colorado waters from invasive species, such as quagga and zebra mussels. Bennet has worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and water leaders from across Colorado to ensure the language was included in the bill before the Senate. The additional federal assistance will help Colorado maintain an effective invasive species program through a collaborative federal, state and local partnership.
"Colorado's rivers and reservoirs are precious resources in our state," Bennet said. "Not only are they a source of clean drinking water for communities throughout Colorado, but they also help drive our agriculture and outdoor recreation industries. Unlike many surrounding states, Colorado's strong inspection program has protected our state from harmful invasive species. Given recent funding challenges, it's especially important that the Army Corps and other federal agencies continue to be involved in the watercraft inspection program."
The provision expands a program that authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to establish watercraft inspection stations for invasive species in local waterways. The language expands the current program to include two river basins in Colorado - the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers. It also authorizes an additional $25 million for the establishment and operation of inspection stations owned and operated by the Army Corps in those river basins. This could provide funding for several reservoirs in Colorado including Chatfield, Cherry Creek, John Martin, Bear Creek and Trinidad Lake.
"We have watched with alarm the spread of quagga and zebra mussels across the country and throughout our nation's water storage and delivery infrastructure," said Eric Kuhn, General Manager of the Colorado River District in western Colorado. "This provision comes at a particularly critical time when Colorado budget constraints are curbing previous inspection and prevention programs concurrent with new mussel infestations being reported in neighboring states. I want to thank Senator Bennet for his leadership and success on this important issue."
"This is a positive step forward to protect our nation's headwaters against zebra and quagga mussels and other harmful invaders," said Bob Broschied, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "Federal and state partnerships are critical to maintain Colorado's aggressive invasive species prevention program. We are very grateful to Senator Bennet for his support of Colorado's Aquatic Nuisance Species program, and for his actions which are helping to facilitate solutions that will benefit our state."
"Army Corps of Engineers Reservoirs on the Front Range, such as Chatfield, have the highest boat traffic in the State. Authorizing the Corps to participate in funding invasive mussel inspections is a great step forward, given the loss of severance tax revenues as a funding source," said Mike Preston, General Manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. "Colorado remains uninfected by mussels at a time when Kansas lakes are becoming badly infected. McPhee Reservoir, operated by the Dolores Water Conservancy District, faces the threat of a badly infected Lake Powell. It only takes one infected boat to infect a lake. This provision is an important step forward in bringing federal resources to bear on this urgent problem. Senator Bennet has done a great job of keeping federal agencies at the table including the advancement of this provision."