House Excludes Colorado Wildfire Recovery Funds in Disaster Bill

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today expressed his disappointment that the U.S. House of Representatives excluded critical funding for Colorado wildfire recovery efforts in a bill to provide disaster resources for Hurricane Sandy.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the House of Representatives move forward with a bill that does not include critical resources Colorado needs to recover and protect its water supply – resources that were included in the Senate bill that received bipartisan support,” Bennet said. “While eastern states should have the resources they need to recover from the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, this summer, Coloradans also endured devastating disasters – catastrophic wildfires in the midst of one of the worst droughts in decades.”

“It’s frustrating when you hear people talk about how they’re fiscally responsible while they are creating a set of conditions that are inevitably going to cost more money and much more pain. If we don’t deal with these problems now, we could be facing as much as five times the cost to deal with future flooding and damage,” Bennet added.

Damage to Colorado’s watersheds from last year’s wildfires has increased the risk of flash flooding and road washouts and compromised clean drinking water supplies. To mitigate these effects, the Senate in late December passed a disaster aid package for Hurricane Sandy that included $125 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program that Senator Bennet, along with Senator Mark Udall, helped secure. However, the House of Representatives failed to vote on the bill before adjourning its session on January 2.

The federal EWP program is designed to support efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. In addition to helping secure the $125 million in EWP funding in the aid package that passed the Senate in late December, Senator Bennet led efforts in November to urge President Obama and Congressional Appropriators to include EWP funding in a Hurricane Sandy disaster recovery package.

Yesterday, Bennet visited the Greeley-Bellvue Water Treatment Plant in Colorado 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 experts and leaders from Greeley, Fort Collins and Larimer County discussed the region’s work to preserve and protect watersheds that are at risk due to last season’s wildfires.

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