Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet welcomed the inclusion of $65.5 million in watershed repair and flood mitigation funds in U.S. Senate legislation to prevent a government shutdown later this year. The funds, which Udall and Bennet have worked tirelessly to secure over the past seven months, will help Colorado communities affected by the devastating High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.
The Senate's movement on the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funding comes less than a week after the U.S. House of Representatives included $48 million in its version of the continuing resolution.
"I am glad we are finally circling the wagons and providing Colorado communities the wildfire relief they need and deserve," Udall said. "This is a good first step. I will continue to stand with Coloradans in Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and other communities burned by wildfires until our drinking water supplies are made whole."
"This bill moves us one step closer to helping Colorado communities -- and others throughout the country -- that suffered from devastating natural disasters last year," Bennet said. "These critical resources will help our communities safeguard their drinking water and rebuild in the wake of last year's terrible wildfire season. Our communities are already up against the wall to complete these projects soon with the spring snowmelt beginning and the risk of flooding high. I urge my colleagues to help us quickly pass this bill so Colorado can begin these long overdue recovery efforts."
The Emergency Watershed Protection program supports efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. 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 bill expired after House failed to take it up prior to adjourning its session on January 2. 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 in order 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.