WASHINGTON — A bill authorizing the Bureau of Reclamation to take part in a long-range strategy to balance wildlife protection with water use along the Colorado River was passed by the House on Monday.
The bill formally endorses a conservation plan developed by federal agencies and officials in Nevada, Arizona and California. It would impact about 400 miles of river from Lake Mead to the Mexican border.
The 50-year plan would create 8,100 acres of wetlands habitat while allowing the continued use of the river to generate electricity and to serve farmers and cities in the Southwest.
The Bureau of Reclamation has been taking part in the effort on a year-to-year basis. The new bill allows a long-term commitment to what is called the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program.
Supporters said the strategy would reduce the threat of environmental lawsuits against states for their water use. In a change to satisfy conservationists, some of the bill’s judicial review provisions were altered by amendment.
The reworked bill, sponsored by Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., was passed by voice vote after a short discussion and no dissent. It was sent to the Senate for further consideration.
“This legislation provides for the long-term health of every community that depends on water from the Lower Colorado River,” Heller said in a statement.