Senate Passes Bill with Wildfire Recovery Resources

Emergency Watershed Protection Funds Will Help Protect Drinking Water, Restore Watersheds

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today hailed the passage of a bill in the U.S. Senate that includes $65.5 million in resources for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program, which will help Colorado communities recovering from last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon and High Park fires. The bill is a Continuing Resolution that will fund the government through the rest of the year and prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month.

The funding, which was also included in the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, is expected to be in the final version that will be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

“Last summer, we watched as fires destroyed thousands of acres of forest land, hundreds of homes, and tragically took the lives of several Coloradans. Since then, these communities have worked hard to pick up the pieces and move forward,” Bennet said. “Passing this bill with EWP resources will allow these communities to take the next step to complete the recovery process. These funds will help restore our land and repair critical infrastructure to help prevent larger costs and bigger problems down the road. I’m grateful for the efforts of our state’s delegation, which worked together in this fight, and to secure these critical funds for Colorado.”

Bennet visited the Greeley-Bellvue Water Treatment Plant in northern Colorado in January to highlight the need for federal resources to protect drinking water in the wake of last summer’s wildfires. During the visit, Bennet and local leaders from Greeley, Fort Collins, and Larimer County discussed the region’s work to preserve and protect watersheds. Last month, he visited the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, which burned to the ground during last year’s Waldo Canyon wildfire and embodies the challenges that Colorado communities across the state face as they work to recover from a devastating wildfire season.

The federal EWP program is designed to support efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. The $65.5 million would cover the nationwide backlog of EWP recovery projects stemming from major disasters.

Federal resources for the recovery projects through the EWP program were secured in a bipartisan bill passed in the Senate last year, but the House chose not to take up that bill prior to adjourning its session on January 2, and the bill expired. In the 113th Congress, House leadership drafted a new bill that excluded resources for Colorado and other states hit by disasters around the country. The President has since signed that bill into law to get much-needed assistance to states affected by Hurricane Sandy.