Bennet Announces Emergency Watershed Protection Funds for Wildfire Recovery, Visits Glenwood Canyon with Local, State & Federal Leaders

View and Download High Resolution Photos of the Visit HERE

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) approved the first tranche of Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funds for $5 million worth of projects in Colorado to mitigate and recover from wildfires. The funding will benefit EWP projects in Mesa, Garfield, Larimer, and Grand Counties. 

The announcement comes after Bennet called on the USDA earlier this week to quickly approve EWP funding for wildfire recovery. 

“We’re deeply grateful to NRCS for quickly and efficiently approving these funds to mitigate damage in Colorado communities affected by wildfires,” said Bennet. “I’ve seen a lot of wildfires and disasters in the last decade that I’ve served in the Senate, and Coloradans always pull together in times of crisis to overcome the devastation and build back even stronger than before. I know this time will be no different. Thank you to all of the local, state, and federal leaders who joined me today on the tour of Glenwood Canyon. I’m committed to continue collaborating with you all to secure additional federal resources for wildfire recovery.” 

Today, Bennet also met with leaders in Glenwood Canyon for a watershed restoration tour of the Hanging Lake Tunnel complex and the Grizzly Creek Watershed. State leaders included Shoshana Lew from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Kevin Klein from Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Rebecca Mitchell from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, in addition to representatives from the White River National Forest, Colorado River District, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), USDA-NRCS, the City of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County and other local elected officials.

During the visit, Bennet and the leaders discussed the critical role that the EWP program will play to help protect watersheds, private property, infrastructure, and Glenwood Springs’ water supply. 

In addition to EWP funds, each state and federal agency outlined the additional resources that may be available to assist with watershed restoration and protection of the canyon. Bennet will continue to collaborate with all of these partners.

On Wednesday, Bennet and other members of the Colorado delegation urged USDA to approve the City of Glenwood Springs’ request for additional financial assistance. Last week, Bennet and the entire Colorado congressional delegation urged President Trump to approve the request from the State of Colorado for additional resources to combat wildfires. In August, Bennet met with the Pine Gulch and Grizzly Creek Fire management teams where he received an update on the firefighting response and future recovery needs.

Shoshana Lew, CDOT Executive Director:

“The fire and related closure of I-70 reminded everyone of the importance of Glenwood Canyon to connect the Western Slope. Our resiliency challenges will continue for some time, and we must work closely together to keep people, water, land, and infrastructure safe throughout this recovery phase.” 

Rebecca Mitchell, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director:

"Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) staff is working on-the-ground with water scientists to monitor and study effects of the Grizzly Creek wildfire on watersheds and water supplies in Glenwood Canyon as well as impacts to flood risk. As the wildfire's ash and soot continue to flow downstream, we estimate that it will take up to seven years for affected watersheds to fully recover, and our team will be part of this recovery process for years to come."

Debra Figueroa, Glenwood Springs City Manager:

“The City of Glenwood Springs is so grateful to Representative Tipton, Senator Gardner and Senator Bennet and their staff for helping us to get the support we so desperately need. Clean water is life and the functionality and resiliency of our infrastructure are critical for all rural communities in the West. 

“Senator Bennet has reached out to us many times since the start of the Grizzly Creek Fire, visited us twice, and reached out to numerous federal departments to connect us with potential resources.  We greatly appreciate that Senator Bennet understands the scope of this disaster, and that he has been with us at our time of most urgent need. We cannot undo the damage that was done during this fire but our path to recovery has begun thanks to the rapid response of Senator Bennett and his staff.” 

Andy Mueller, Colorado River District General Manager:

“The Colorado River District, whose mission it is to protect the water resources of the West Slope, recognizes the severity of the damage to the Glenwood Springs watershed and the potential negative impacts this fire will likely have on the water supply for downstream cities from Rifle to Clifton, truly appreciates the opportunity to partner with the federal government’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program, which has been championed by Senator Bennet, and many other local and state partners to immediately start rehabilitating the watershed. 

“A catastrophic event like this in the major watershed for the City of Glenwood Springs is an opportunity to bring the resources of the federal, state, regional and local governments together to assist in preventing the worst outcomes with respect to long term damage to an important watershed. As a regional government charged with the protection of the water resources of the Colorado River, the Colorado River District recognizes the importance of the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, which has been supported and championed by Senator Bennet to the safety and security of the water supply for the population on the West Slope.”

Scott Fitzwilliams, White River National Forest Supervisor:

“The Forest Service is extremely appreciative of all the help and cooperation from our partners to help manage this difficult fire. And we are grateful for everyone working together to address what we know will be a long-term problem with post-fire watershed protection.”