Program Provides Critical Support to Restore Watersheds Damaged in Wildfires
Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall introduced an amendment to the U.S. House of Representative’s proposal to keep the government running for the next six months, commonly called the Continuing Resolution, to secure emergency funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. The amendment seeks to provide $27.9 million in emergency funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture program, which provides support for rehabilitating and restoring watersheds in areas affected by wildfires and other natural disasters.
“Our state's watersheds and water infrastructure are critical to delivering clean drinking water to millions of Coloradans, but they are seriously threatened by this summer’s devastating wildfires, which decimated forests and dangerously increased the speed and amount of runoff after a rainstorm," Bennet said. "We must do everything we can to protect our watersheds, our soil and our infrastructure – this amendment provides the resources to do just that.”
"I was disappointed that the House chose not to include emergency funding for the Emergency Watershed Program in the wake of Colorado's devastating fire season. Not only are Colorado communities near burned areas now facing flood potential that is 20 times higher than before the fires, they are also left to deal with ash from the fires that have recently made the Poudre River run black and forced Fort Collins and Greeley to shut off their water intake systems," Udall said. "It is essential that we look to meet the needs of the Emergency Watershed Protection Program so we can protect our watersheds from floods and erosion that can cause serious infrastructure damage, water supply disruptions and even loss of life."
The Natural Resources Conservation Service administers the EWP program and provides funding and technical support to restore and stabilize soil in critical watersheds in the aftermath of severe fires and other natural disasters.
Last month, Udall and Bennet joined together in sending a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, urging it to consider emergency supplemental appropriations to provide additional funding to the EWP program. They cited the assistance needed in areas throughout Colorado to address a number of natural resource issues related to the summer's devastating wildfires. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that it will need approximately $20 million for mitigating the watershed damage from the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.