U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are urging the Senate Appropriations Committee to consider an emergency supplemental appropriations measure to help areas address a number of natural resource issues related to the devastating wildfires that tore across Colorado this summer.
In a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman and ranking member, the senators wrote, "Several communities across our state are confronting significant challenges in stabilizing burned slopes and protecting drinking water infrastructure for their citizens. Programs funded through emergency supplemental appropriations - particularly the USDA's Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program - can help address these situations."
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Colorado announced it has invested $500,000 to help stabilize privately-owned land impacted by the Hewlett wildfire. NRCS utilized its Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) in cooperation with the City of Greeley to fund ae rial seeding and mulching on more than 500 acres.
This announcement comes on the heels of Bennet and Udall sending a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to utilize all available resources to assist Colorado's agricultural community during this difficult season of drought and wildfires.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran:
We write today regarding the immediate need for emergency supplemental appropriations to address the aftermath of the devastating wildfires that tore across Colorado earlier this summer. Several communities across our state are now confronting significant challenges in stabilizing burned slopes and protecting drinking water infrastructure for their citizens. Programs funded through emergency supplemental appropriations - particularly the USDA's Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program - can help address these situations.
Fires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres of Colorado forests since the snow began to melt this spring. USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) estimates Colorado's needs for Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program resources at $15 million and it's expected that ongoing assessments may increase that figure to be upwards of $25 million. To compound the problem, we understand that the Colorado need has been added to a wait list for EWP requests totaling nearly $100 million nationwide. However, the current account balance for EWP is approximately $10 million for the entire country - a shortfall of nearly $90 million.
Chairmen Inouye, Ranking Member Cochran; we respectfully request that the Senate appropriations committee move to consider an emergency supplemental appropriations measure at the earliest practicable date to address this growing problem.