Bennet-Authored Provision to Expedite Gold King Mine Reimbursements Passes Senate

WRDA Also Includes Bennet Measure to Protect Colorado Waters from Invasive Species

Washington, D.C. - The Senate today passed a bill to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) with a measure sponsored by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to expedite the reimbursement of emergency response costs assumed by States, Indian tribes, and local governments following the Gold King Mine spill. The bill also includes a Bennet-authored provision that will help protect Colorado waters from invasive species, such as quagga and zebra mussels.

"More than a year after the Gold King Mine spill, it's unacceptable that Colorado communities are still fighting for reimbursements from the EPA," Bennet said. "Our bipartisan amendment requires EPA to fulfill its commitment to the State, tribes, and local communities who responded quickly to the spill. It also ensures the EPA continues to work with local communities to develop a long-term water monitoring program for the Animas River."

Bennet joined Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and John McCain (R-AZ) to introduce the bipartisan amendment to address the response costs associated with the Gold King Mine spill. The measure creates an expedited review process for claims to be reviewed and paid by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It also allows for claims that include costs incurred beyond October 31, 2015.

The amendment requires the EPA to pay out all costs eligible for reimbursement that are consistent with what is typically reimbursed under federal law. It calls for the EPA to pay out all claims within 90 days and notify parties as to whether or not it will pay the claim within 30 days of reaching its decision. Lastly, the amendment establishes a water quality monitoring program and authorizes the EPA to reimburse the States, Indian tribes, and local governments for this monitoring activity.

The invasive species provision expands a program that authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to establish watercraft inspection stations for invasive species in local reservoirs. The language adds two river basins in Colorado - the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers. It also authorizes an additional $25 million for the establishment and operation of inspection stations owned and operated by the Army Corps in those river basins. This could provide funding for several reservoirs in Colorado including Chatfield, Cherry Creek, John Martin, Bear Creek and Trinidad Lake. Additional funding could also help the state of Colorado to keep their state-wide invasive species program fully funded.

"This bill will help ensure that Colorado's reservoirs are protected from invasive species," Bennet added. "Colorado already has a strong inspection program, and this bill includes a measure to ensure the Army Corps continue to be involved in the watercraft inspection program."