Bennet, Udall Introduce Bill to Aid Wildfire Recovery Efforts in Colorado

Continuing their fight for Colorado communities impacted by last year’s wildfires, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today introduced a bill that would restore resources that were stripped from the Hurricane Sandy aid package by the House of Representatives.

The bill would cover the backlog of Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) projects resulting from presidentially-declared natural disasters, estimated at roughly $60 million. Colorado’s backlog of EWP projects resulting from last year’s wildfires is $20 million.  The fires damaged watersheds throughout the state, increasing the risk of flash flooding and road washouts and compromising water supplies. The bill comes a week after the two Senators wrote a letter to the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, urging it to allocate EWP resources in a forthcoming appropriations bill to fund the government after March.

“Colorado cannot wait any longer for these resources – they are critical as our communities try to safeguard their drinking water and rebuild in the wake of last year’s terrible wildfire season,” Bennet said. “Our nation has a proud tradition of coming together after tragedies and natural disasters and I hope it continues with the passage of this bill.”

“If we don’t address these issues up front, we are just going to end up paying more for them later, and that just doesn’t make any sense,” Bennet added.

"Colorado communities whose water supplies and infrastructure were devastated more than six months ago by the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires cannot wait any longer for relief. Even minor rainfall or snow melt could trigger devastating floods and mudslides that will threaten lives and homes," Udall said. "We are all in this together. That is why Senator Bennet and I are introducing this legislation to protect our water resources and provide Colorado communities with the help they need to aggressively and immediately rehabilitate their water supplies."

The federal EWP program is designed to support efforts to restore 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.

In late December, Senators Bennet and Udall successfully secured EWP funding in a Hurricane Sandy aid package that passed the Senate in a bipartisan vote. However, the House of Representatives failed to vote on the bill before adjourning its session on January 2 and the bill expired. EWP funding for states not impacted by Hurricane Sandy was removed in an aid package that passed the House last month.