WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has signed the Platte River Recovery Program Implementation Cooperative Agreement, according to Mark Limbaugh, Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Water and Science.
Limbaugh said the Secretary’s signature, which follows those of the governors of Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, sets in motion implementation of a program to pool resources and expertise from throughout the basin to protect and restore habitat for threatened and endangered species while also ensuring current uses of water can continue. The Secretary signed the agreement on December 6, 2006.
“This agreement has been several years in the making and represents a tremendous amount of collaboration by many who are concerned about the future of the species and the future of water projects,” Limbaugh said.
If agreement had not been reached, Limbaugh explained, Endangered Species Act consultation requirements would have to be addressed separately for each of the hundreds of Federal and private water projects in the basin. “That would be vastly more expensive and certainly less effective in recovering the species,” he added.
The Federal government will provide half the funding necessary for the program; the other half will be contributed by the three states through non-Federal funds, water and lands. The estimated total value of these cash and cash-equivalent contributions over the first 13-year increment of the program is about $317 million. Full implementation will require Federal legislation.
A governance committee, comprised of representatives from the three states, water users, environmental groups, and Federal agencies, will act as the implementation team. An executive director will be hired to guide day-to-day operations of the program and to supervise staff and contracts. The governance committee will also contract with a financial management entity to hold and disburse the funds contributed by the parties to the program and with a land interest holding entity to hold title to program lands.