Senate Passes Bill that Boosts Wildfire Watershed Recovery Funds

If Passed by House, Critical Resources Will Help Address Damage from Summer Wildfires

December 28, 2012

Members of the Colorado Congressional delegation today hailed the passage of a bill in the Senate to help Americans continue recovery efforts from natural disasters. The bill, which is based on a request for supplemental appropriations from President Obama, includes a boost in resources the delegation secured to support Colorado’s watershed recovery efforts following this year’s wildfire season. The bill must now pass the House of Representatives.

If the House passes the bill, the $125 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program likely will be used, in part, to repair watershed damages that El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties sustained during this year’s wildfire season.

"Water is precious in Colorado – especially right now during the worst drought in years,” Senator Michael Bennet said. “This bill will provide help for the Colorado communities that are recovering from the devastating fires this summer and are now facing threats to their water supply and the risk of flooding at the same time. I am hopeful our colleagues in the House will quickly pass the bill and deliver this support to the communities that need it.”

“Water is the lifeblood of the West. I have been pushing for this critical funding for months, and I am glad we were successful in giving the families of El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties the resources they need to confront the severe wildfires we experienced earlier this year and preserve our critical water supplies,” Senator Mark Udall said. “Addressing the devastation from this past summer’s wildfires will ultimately save the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the long term. I plan to continue to be a strong advocate for fighting and preventing wildfires and ensuring that Congress takes a comprehensive approach to combating their immediate and long-term effects.”

“After months of working to secure this funding, I am pleased that Larimer and Weld counties are now a step closer to getting the help they need to protect our watershed and recover from this year’s devastating fires,” Congressman Jared Polis said. “The way in which the delegation continues to work together on a bipartisan basis to deliver wildfire recovery funding for Colorado should serve as an example to the Congress.”

The EWP Program supports the restoration of eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. Projects include unclogging debris from stream channels, fortifying stream banks, securing water control structures, and improving other public infrastructure damaged or compromised by fire and drought.

As a result of the historic High Park fire outside Fort Collins, the area supplying municipal water to the city has a high risk of flooding, road washouts, and water quality degradation. Similarly, in Colorado Springs, a major utility pipe was exposed in the aftermath of this summer’s Waldo Canyon fire and remains vulnerable. With this supplemental funding allocated to the EWP, both Colorado communities can protect their critical infrastructure and help prevent future catastrophic damage from fires and floods.

Earlier this month, Bennet and Udall introduced a bill in the Senate to boost resources for the EWP Program. And last month, Bennet and Udall, along with Representatives Doug Lamborn, Jared Polis, and Cory Gardner urged the president and Appropriations Committee leaders to include the EWP Program in a Sandy disaster supplemental.

Earlier this year, Bennet and Udall introduced an amendment to the U.S. House of Representative’s proposal to keep the government running for the next six months, commonly referred to as the Continuing Resolution, to secure emergency funding for the EWP program.

The EWP program falls under the jurisdiction of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Natural Resources and Forestry, a subcommittee Bennet chairs.

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