Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today applauded the inclusion of over $48 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection program in legislation to fund the government for the rest of the year. The U.S. House of Representatives introduced the bill today and should vote on it before the end of the week to allow for the Senate's consideration before funding expires at the end of the month.
"The High Park and Waldo Canyon fires badly damaged water supplies in Larimer and El Paso counties more than seven months ago. The U.S. House of Representatives' action today has been a long time coming, and I am glad they finally acted on this urgent issue," Udall said. "We are all in this together. I look forward to passing this legislation in the Senate as soon as possible to start a long overdue process of restoring and protecting our drinking water supplies."
"The House's decision to finally provide this assistance to Colorado and other states that suffered devastating natural disasters last year is a welcome sign," Bennet said. "Our communities need these resources to safeguard their drinking water and rebuild in the wake of last year's terrible wildfire season. Completing these projects now rather than later will help us protect property and save even more money down the road. I'm grateful for the Colorado House of Representatives delegation's commitment to continue to fight for this funding after the House eliminated it earlier this year."
The federal Emergency Watershed Protection program is designed to support efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. The $48 million would cover much of the backlog of EWP disaster recovery projects throughout the country.
Federal resources for the watershed projects through the Emergency Watershed Protection program had been secured in a bipartisan bill passed in the Senate, but the House chose not to take up that bill prior to adjourning its session on January 2, and the bill expired. In the 113th Congress, House leadership drafted a new bill that excluded resources for Colorado and other states hit by disasters around the country. The President has since signed that bill into law to get much-needed assistance to states affected by Hurricane Sandy.
As a result of the historic High Park Fire in Northern Colorado, the area supplying drinking water to communities including Greeley and Fort Collins has a high risk of flooding, road washouts, and water quality degradation. Similarly, in Colorado Springs, utility infrastructure has been badly damaged in the wake of last year's wildfire season. EWP resources could help these Colorado communities protect their critical infrastructure and prevent future catastrophic damage from fires and floods.