Wednesday, March 20, 2013

UPDATE: Federal funds approved for flood prevention; alerts now available

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2013 at 3:54 PM

Great news: The House has passed the Senate bill, approving $65.5 million in EWP funds. The bill is on its way to President Barack Obama's desk.

House Approves Senate Bill with EWP Resources, Headed to President’s Desk to Become Law

Emergency Watershed Protection Funds Will Help Protect Drinking Water, Restore Watersheds


Washington, DC — The House of Representatives today passed the Senate bill that includes $65.5 million in resources for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program, which will help Colorado communities recovering from last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon and High Park fires. The bill is a Continuing Resolution that will fund the government through the rest of the year and prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month. It now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“Communities in Colorado will finally be able to complete these vital recovery projects that will protect drinking water and watershed infrastructure,” Bennet said. “Colorado’s Congressional delegation worked together to secure these resources, and I am glad we finally have resolution for the state. Colorado is ready to put these resources to work.”

The federal EWP program is designed to support efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. The $65.5 million would cover the nationwide backlog of EWP recovery projects stemming from major disasters.

Bennet visited the Greeley-Bellvue Water Treatment Plant in northern Colorado in January to highlight the need for federal resources to protect drinking water in the wake of last summer’s wildfires. During the visit, Bennet and local leaders from Greeley, Fort Collins, and Larimer County discussed the region’s work to preserve and protect watersheds. Last month, he visited the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, which 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 resources for the recovery projects through the EWP program were secured in a bipartisan bill passed in the Senate last year, 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.

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——- ORIGINAL POST, WEDNESDAY, 3:54 P.M.——-
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In today's cover story, "Black water," I note that Congress has been working on legislation that could provide much-needed money for mitigation around the Waldo Canyon burn scar.

Good news: The Senate just virtually ensured that more funding will be coming our way soon.

The Senate passed a bill today that provides $65.5 million in Emergency Watershed Protection grant funds nationwide. While the House bill only provided $48.2 million, the discrepancy likely can be ironed out quickly, meaning the bill will soon be headed to President Barack Obama for signature.

The Pikes Peak area isn't guaranteed funding, but observers say the area will get most, if not all, the money it's asked for. Area leaders have requested $9.6 million (including match money).

That funding would do a lot to prevent a nightmare flooding scenario, but there are caveats. Projects take time, and no project will reduce flood risk to pre-fire levels. Plus, the area will likely need even more money than originally thought — new studies will soon reveal the full extent of mitigation work that's needed.

Still, this is great news.

This is what Sen. Michael Bennet's office says:

Senate Passes Bill with Wildfire Recovery Resources

Emergency Watershed Protection Funds Will Help Protect Drinking Water, Restore Watersheds


Washington, DC — Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today hailed the passage of a bill in the U.S. Senate that includes $65.5 million in resources for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program, which will help Colorado communities recovering from last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon and High Park fires. The bill is a Continuing Resolution that will fund the government through the rest of the year and prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month.

The funding, which was also included in the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, is expected to be in the final version that will be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

“Last summer, we watched as fires destroyed thousands of acres of forest land, hundreds of homes, and tragically took the lives of several Coloradans. Since then, these communities have worked hard to pick up the pieces and move forward,” Bennet said. “Passing this bill with EWP resources will allow these communities to take the next step to complete the recovery process. These funds will help restore our land and repair critical infrastructure to help prevent larger costs and bigger problems down the road. I’m grateful for the efforts of our state’s delegation, which worked together in this fight to secure these critical funds for Colorado.”

Bennet visited the Greeley-Bellvue Water Treatment Plant in northern Colorado in January to highlight the need for federal resources to protect drinking water in the wake of last summer’s wildfires. During the visit, Bennet and local leaders from Greeley, Fort Collins, and Larimer County discussed the region’s work to preserve and protect watersheds. Last month, he visited the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, which 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.

The federal EWP program is designed to support efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. The $65.5 million would cover the nationwide backlog of EWP recovery projects stemming from major disasters.

Federal resources for the recovery projects through the EWP program were secured in a bipartisan bill passed in the Senate last year, 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.

# # #

And Sen. Mark Udall:

Udall: Passage of Watershed Protection, Wildfire Recovery Funds a Major Victory for Colorado

Funds Udall Helped Secure Will Repair Drinking Water Supplies Damaged by High Park, Waldo Canyon Wildfires

Mark Udall welcomed the passage today of U.S. Senate legislation containing $65.5 million to help communities like El Paso County and Larimer County repair watersheds damaged in last summer's wildfires, calling it a major victory for Colorado. The Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funds, also included in the Continuing Resolution that passed the U.S. House of Representatives, will allow Colorado communities affected by the devastating High Park and Waldo Canyon fires to deal with degraded water quality, high flooding risk and eroded watersheds.

"More than seven months after Colorado experienced the most destructive wildfire season on record, we are now closer to sending help than ever before. We are finally circling the wagons and affirming that we are all in this together," Udall said. "I am glad my colleagues in Congress have joined me in standing with Colorado communities in their time of need."

Because the House version of the continuing resolution included only $48 million for the EWP program, either the House will pass the Senate version of the Continuing Resolution or the Senate and House will settle the difference in conference before sending the bill to the president.
The Emergency Watershed Protection program supports efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet have led the fight to secure funds since the devastating 2012 wildfire season. 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 was 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.

In other news, Valerie E. Ritterbusch, president/meteorologist with WeatherCall Services, LLC, notes that her company is partnering with KRDO to provide weather alerts.

[O]ur company and our affiliate KRDO have donated a free year of highly site specific flash flood notification via a phone call, email, and SMS text for all businesses and residents inside a “geo-fence” we have created around the burn scar flood risk area with the help of NWS in Pueblo. Weather radios and the free government Wireless Emergency Alert text messages for WEA-enabled cell phones will deliver flash flood warnings issued for anywhere in El Paso County. The alert coming from KRDO’s WeatherCall system will automatically notify burn scar residents 24/7 but ONLY if a flash flood is actually impacting some part of the burn area because it is based upon National Weather Service “Storm-Based Warnings” http://www.nws.noaa.gov/sbwarnings/ . The service is free for 2013. Residents and businesses can sign up by going to http://www.wcsyslp.com/KRDO/athome-waldo .

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