President Barack Obama has signed a bill that will provide $65.5 million in Emergency Watershed Protection Funds to locally governments that apply. Locally, $9.6 million (match included) has already been requested for mitigation on the Waldo Canyon burn scar, which is expected to produce dangerous floods. (Read more about that topic here.)
Colorado's U.S. senators and representatives had been seeking the funding since last year, but had not been able to get approval until recently. Assuming Colorado Springs gets the funding, more mitigation projects will be done to prevent flooding in neighborhoods and commercial areas, which is expected to be a huge problem in the summer months.
Projects, which can lessen but not eliminate flood risk, will take time. Flood risk will still remain high for years to come.
The release from Sen. Michael Bennet's office:
President Signs Wildfire Recovery Assistance into Law
Emergency Watershed Protection Funds Will Help Protect Drinking Water, Restore Watersheds
Denver, CO — President Obama today signed into law a 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 will fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year.
“This is a big win for Colorado and represents a strong team effort from local and federal officials. Now our communities in Colorado will finally be able to complete vital recovery projects that will protect drinking water and watershed infrastructure,” Bennet said. “While we continue to repair and rebuild from the devastation of last season’s fires, we must also turn our focus to preparing for what may be another difficult fire season. We need a strong federal commitment to be ready to respond emergencies quickly and to assist communities and victims as they recover. Homeowners can also use this time to take every possible precaution to help mitigate any potential wildfire damage to their property and to their lives.”
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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