Committee Passes Water Resources Bill with Key Colorado Provisions

Bill Includes Bennet-Backed Measures to Improve Post-Disaster Watershed Assessments, Encourage Innovative Financing Strategies

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today passed a Water Resources Bill that includes several provisions backed by U.S. Senator Michael Bennet that are vital to Colorado’s water quality and quantity.

The bill to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) makes reforms to the programs administered by the Army Corps of Engineers, provides critical flood protection for communities across the country, and will help create jobs.

Bennet pushed for improvements to the Corps’ ability to quickly assess watershed damage after a wildfire and to complete small projects to help improve the situation. Bennet also supported a new financing tool included in the bill to help communities identify resources to respond to critical water infrastructure improvement needs.

“In Colorado and the West, water is an extremely important resource for our families and the industries that drive our economy,” Bennet said. “As our state continues to deal with the effects of last summer’s wildfires and severe drought conditions, we have to be mindful of our water resources. This bill will help ensure that critical resources are available to Colorado communities when they need them, and it will also give them new tools to address their future water infrastructure needs.”

“Manitou Springs is grateful for the work Senator Bennet has done to identify and champion the many areas of federal support that can help protect this community from the threat of flooding from the Waldo fire,” said Marc Snyder, mayor of Manitou Springs. “The new language for post-disaster assessments and funding would really benefit Manitou as we prepare our community for the threats to community infrastructure and private homes and businesses.”

In February, Bennet, along with Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), wrote to the committee in support of several provisions in the draft bill, including:

  • Allowing the Corps of Engineers to use pre-existing watershed assessment studies when selecting projects following a disaster declaration;
  • Authorizing the Corps to move forward with small watershed protection projects to address the most crucial issues following a disaster declaration;
  • A new program authorizing secured loans to assist with innovative financing strategies for water infrastructure projects similar to the TIFIA program for transportation infrastructure;
  • A study to look at how the Corps manages water both during droughts and during floods to determine if any strategies can be improved.

The Environment and Public Works Committee included all of the requests in WRDA.

WRDA authorizes Corps activities and provides policy direction for the conservation and development of water-related resources. It was last reauthorized in 2007.