For Immediate Release
March 21, 2024
Angela Simental, Conservation Colorado: 303-605-3483

DENVER – The Protect Colorado Waters Coalition voiced its strong support for legislation introduced Wednesday by Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon), Senator Dylan Roberts (D-Frisco) and Representative Karen McCormick (D-Longmont) that would restore protections to Colorado’s endangered wetlands and waters.

The legislation was drafted in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year to impose the biggest rollback of the Clean Water Act since its inception in 1972, essentially eliminating protections for certain wetlands and other critically important waters. Without protections, many of Colorado’s critical wetlands and streams can be polluted, filled in, paved over, and destroyed without abiding by the pollution control and mitigation requirements of the federal law. This will have negative impacts to our drinking water supply, ecosystem services such as flood mitigation, and wildlife habitat.

“We applaud Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick for stepping up to restore protection to Colorado’s endangered wetlands and other waters,” said Josh Kuhn, Sr. Water Campaign Manager at Conservation Colorado. “This bill allows Colorado to avoid the harm that would otherwise result from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision by restoring clean water protections that safeguard our drinking water, benefit our local economies, and conserve wildlife while allowing for responsible development.”

H.B. 24-1379 does the following:
● Restores protection for Colorado’s critical waters undermined by last year’s Supreme
Court’s decision;
● Holds polluters accountable and ensures the permitting process is transparent;
● Establishes regulatory certainty to allow for long term planning and careful but efficient
permitting in Colorado;
● Secures clear mechanisms for strong enforcement to protect Colorado’s wetlands and

“The coalition can’t support any bill that doesn’t meet these minimum standards,” Kuhn said.

There is broad statewide support for Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts, Rep. McCormick and the state to act.

Recent polling shows that the vast majority of Coloradans want strong water protections. Nearly nine-in ten voters say it’s important for Colorado to reduce the damage and pollution from development, industry and mining on wetlands and streams.

Colorado has lost about 50% of its wetlands due to development since statehood, so protecting what remains is a necessity.

Because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Colorado’s remaining wetlands – along with 24% of streams that run seasonally (intermittent) and 45% of those only flowing in response to rain or snow (ephemeral) – in every area of the state are potentially at risk if this new state program is not adopted.

“Water plays an indispensable role in our environment and daily lives,” said Alex Funk, Director of Water Resources, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership,“The wetlands and streams that feed our state water resources are essential to Colorado’s hunting and fishing heritage, provide natural defenses against climate change and dangerous flooding, filter out pollutants for drinking water, nourish farmland and deliver other benefits essential for the health of nearby rivers and other water bodies we all depend on.”

“Restoring a protective, responsible permitting system in the wake of the Supreme Court decision is critical to the future of our state’s waters,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “The bill by Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick strikes the right balance, creating a permitting system that protects important wetlands and waters while at the same time providing a fair and reasonable permitting process for those pursuing responsible development.”

“As the owner of a brewery in a resort town I depend on cold, clean water to craft award-winning beers. Clean water allows me to run my business, create jobs and contribute sales tax revenue for my community. Our town depends on clean water for a multitude of tourist activities that bring people from all over the world. We need to protect our waterways and wetlands. The bill by Speaker Julie McCluskie, Sen. Dylan Roberts and Rep. McCormick is a needed remedy to a terrible decision by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Tom Caldwell Co-owner and Head Brewer at Big Trout Brewing Company, Winter Park, Colorado.

“Wetlands help filter out pollutants from the streams and rivers that feed into our drinking water system, playing a critical role in the health of Coloradans,” said Michelle Liptak, a palliative care nurse in Grand Junction. “Passing the bill by Speaker Julie McCluskie, Sen. Dylan Roberts and Rep. McCormick will restore protections that the Supreme Court took away and reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses.”

“Our high elevation wetlands and seasonal streams across the San Juan Mountains need the protections previously provided by the federal Clean Water Act” said Sara Burch, Animas Riverkeeper with San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Colorado needs to step into the breach and ensure that wetlands and waters from Wolf Creek Pass to the headwaters of the Animas River are protected by robust rules designed by Coloradoans for our unique local circumstances.”

“The proposed legislation by Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick is a key response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision eliminating long standing protections for our nation’s waters,” said Stu Gillespie, Staff Attorney at EarthJustice. “The legislation provides comprehensive protections for Colorado waters—an approach that is consistent with the science and law. It’s also a pointed reminder that Coloradans value clean water, which is intricately connected to our way of life.”

“Wetlands, headwater streams, and washes are profoundly connected like capillaries of the circulatory system to larger waters downstream. They are essential for birds and vital natural systems that support resilience to water supplies for us all in Colorado’s semi-arid to arid climate,” said Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Senior Manager at Audubon Rockies. “The bill by Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick takes proactive and comprehensive action needed at the state level to protect the water bodies and habitats that birds need to survive. Protecting water quality is a bipartisan stewardship issue and brings broad public support.”

“The Supreme Court’s ruling was a massive setback to the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to curb water pollution, with significant repercussions on communities, ecosystems, the economy, and recreational activities across the nation. In Colorado, water contamination is primarily found in counties with high Latino populations. We applaud Coloradans for taking action to safeguard our waters. The legislation by Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick is a step in the right direction to restore critical protections for wetlands and waters and hold developers, mining, and other industries accountable and limit the impact of these activities in waterways and streams,” said Camilla Simon, executive director of Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO).

“The heath of the Colorado, the Arkansas, the South Platte, and of all our rivers, is directly impacted by the condition of the wetlands that buffer them and by the water quality of the streams that flow into them,” said Jennifer Peters, Water Policy Advisor, Clean Water Action. “By protecting wetlands and streams from destruction and pollution, this proposed legislation will better safeguard Colorado’s many iconic rivers, which millions of people in over a dozen states depend on for drinking water, agriculture, and recreation.”

“With their bill, Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick are taking a crucial step to respond forcefully to the Supreme Court’s reckless attack on the Clean Water Act,” said Jon Devine, Director, Freshwater Ecosystems, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council.) “This bill will help protect Coloradans from flooding, help ensure safe and sufficient drinking water, and help preserve fishing, boating, and other recreational opportunities across the state.”

“While the federal government continues to fail communities by not protecting our wetlands and sacred water. Colorado as the Headwaters state will take the lead to protect our sacred waters. We know that in Colorado Latinos are disproportionately impacted by water contamination and for that reason GreenLatinos Colorado is supportive of the legislation by Speaker McCluskie, Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick as it is a step in the right direction to provide protections for our sacred waters” said Ean Tafoya , GreenLatinos Colorado State Director

“Clean, reliable water resources drive the economy and are vital for the health of many communities across Colorado, providing critical access to nature and climate resilience in the face of already drier seasons,” said Margaret Kran-Annexstein, Director of Colorado Sierra Club. “Not only is water precious for our communities, but mountain states like Colorado are the source of water for downslope states. We can and must set a nation-leading example to bring back protections after the disastrous Supreme Court decision last year.”

The coalition will be following the bill through the legislative process to ensure that the efforts of Speaker McCluskie Sen. Roberts and Rep. McCormick are successful.

Additional Contacts:

● Abby Burk, Western Rivers Program Senior Manager, Audubon Rockies, 303-656-6496
● Ean Tafoya, GreenLatinos Colorado State Director, 720-621-8985
● David Nickum, Executive Director Colorado Trout Unlimited, 303-440-2937 ext. 1
● Alex Funk, Director of Water Resources,Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership,
● Jennifer Peters, Water Policy Advisor, Clean Water Action, 347-306-2320
● Stu Gillespie, Staff Attorney at EarthJustice, 303-996-9616
● Aaron Citron, Policy Advisor at The Nature Conservancy, 520-730-3421
● Sara Burch, Animas Riverkeeper with San Juan Citizens Alliance, 720-470-1709
● Josh Kuhn, Sr. Water Campaign Manager at Conservation Colorado, 615-483-9041
● Margaret Kran-Annexstein, Colorado Chapter, Sierra Club, 513-886-0879

About the Protect Colorado Waters Coalition
The coalition of 17 environmental conservation organizations, representing more than 275,000 Coloradans, who have come together to pass legislation in Colorado in response to The Supreme Court’s Sackett decision. The coalition’s goal is to restore the level of protections that existed prior to this decision, ensuring creation of a permitting program allowing for responsible development activities to occur without irreparable harm to Colorado’s wetlands and streams.

Members of the coalition include:
● Alamosa Riverkeeper
● Animas Riverkeeper
● Audubon Rockies
● Clean Water Action
● Conservation Colorado
● Colorado Sierra Club
● Colorado Trout Unlimited
● Colorado Riverkeeper
● Earthjustice
● Green Latinos
● Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO)
● Natural Resources Defense Council
● San Juan Citizens Alliance
● Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
● The Nature Conservancy
● Upper Green River Network
● Western Resource Advocates

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