Senator Mark Udall and members of the Colorado congressional delegation welcomed the U.S. Senate's passage today of the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance, which includes a proposed $125 million to support Colorado's watershed recovery efforts following this year's wildfire season. The bill must now pass the U.S. House of Representatives.
If the House passes the bill, the $125 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program likely will be used, in part, to repair watershed damages El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties sustained during this past summer's wildfires.
"Water is the lifeblood of the West. I have been pushing for this critical funding for months, and I am glad we were successful in giving the families of El Paso, Larimer and Weld counties the resources they need to confront the severe wildfires we experienced earlier this year and preserve our critical water supplies," Udall said. "Addressing the devastation from this past summer's wildfires will ultimately save the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the long term. I plan to continue to be a strong advocate for fighting and preventing wildfires and ensuring that Congress takes a comprehensive approach to combating their immediate and long-term effects."
"The fires that raged through Colorado this summer served as a stark reminder of how precious water resources are to Coloradans and Americans who live in the West," Senator Michael Bennet said. "This bill will provide help for communities still recovering that have drinking water at risk or other water infrastructure in need of repair. I am hopeful our colleagues in the House will quickly pass the bill and deliver this support to the communities that need it."
"After months of working to secure this funding, I am pleased that Larimer and Weld counties are now a step closer to getting the help they need to protect our watershed and recover from this year's devastating fires," Congressman Jared Polis said. "The way in which the delegation continues to work together on a bipartisan basis to deliver wildfire recovery funding for Colorado should serve as an example to the Congress."
The EWP Program supports projects to restore damage to watersheds and drinking water infrastructure such as debris-clogged stream channels, undermined and unstable stream banks, jeopardized water control structures and public infrastructures and damaged upland sites stripped of protective vegetation by fire or drought.
In Fort Collins, as a result of the historic High Park Fire, the watershed supplying municipal water to the city has a high risk of water quality degradation, flood hazard, and road washouts. Similarly, Colorado Springs is struggling with the exposure of a previously buried major utility pipe in the aftermath of the Waldo Canyon Fire. With supplemental funding allocated to the EWP Program, these communities can improve these watersheds, protect critical infrastructure, and prevent future catastrophic damage from fires and floods.
Earlier this month, Udall and Bennet introduced a bill to boost resources for the EWP Program. And last month, Bennet and Udall, along with Representatives Polis, Doug Lamborn, and Cory Gardner, urged the president and Appropriations Committee leaders to include the EWP Program in the Sandy disaster supplemental.
Earlier this year, Udall and Bennet introduced an amendment to the U.S. House of Representative's proposal to keep the government running for the next six months, commonly referred to as the Continuing Resolution, to secure emergency funding for the EWP program.