Bennet Highlights Need for Wildfire Recovery Funds at Flying W Ranch

Iconic ranch microcosm for Waldo Canyon fire relief needs

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and local officials today visited the famous Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs to highlight the need for federal resources to support wildfire recovery efforts. Flying W Ranch burned to the ground during last year’s Waldo Canyon wildfire and embodies the challenges that Colorado communities across the state face as they work to recover from a devastating wildfire season.

Federal Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funds have helped build sediment ponds on ranch property to mitigate the risk of flooding for hundreds of homes and businesses in the area. However, this drainage basin is only one of several throughout the city and county that face increased risk of flooding.

“The Waldo Canyon fire wreaked havoc on this community and they need our support,” Bennet said. “Given our country’s strong tradition of coming together after disasters, I’m disappointed that the House removed this critical funding from the Sandy aid package passed last month.  We’re committed to continuing to fight to ensure Colorado communities receive the support they need.

“If we don’t deal with these problems now, on the front-end, by mitigating the risk of flooding and protecting our water infrastructure, we’re just going to end up paying more later, and that doesn’t make any sense,” Bennet added.

The federal EWP program is designed to support efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure.  Colorado has an unmet need of approximately $20 million in EWP projects resulting from last season’s wildfires.

For the past six months, Senator Bennet has been fighting to secure this funding and ensure Colorado communities receive the resources they need. He and Senator Mark Udall were successful in securing $125 million for EWP projects in a Hurricane Sandy aid package that passed the Senate in December with broad bipartisan support, however, these resources were stripped from the aid package that passed the House last month.

Just yesterday, Bennet led a letter with Senator Udall and Congressman Jared Polis to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan requesting that Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) be used for EWP projects.

Last week, Bennet and Udall wrote a letter to the President urging him to allocate resources for Colorado’s wildfire recovery needs in an upcoming budget request for FY2014. The two Senators wrote a similar letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee at the end of January.

And earlier this month, the Senators introduced a bill that would cover the backlog of EWP projects resulting from presidentially-declared natural disasters across the country.

Last month, Bennet visited a Greeley water treatment facility with local officials to discuss the water infrastructure challenges northern Colorado communities face in the wake of the High Park fire.

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