Federal dollars to help areas affected by High Park, Waldo Canyon fires
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Persistence by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet paid off this week, as the U.S. Senate passed legislation that includes $65.5 million to help communities like El Paso County and Larimer County repair watersheds damaged in last summer’s wildfires.
Udall said it was a major victory for Colorado, with Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program funds also included in the Continuing Resolution that passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
The money will help 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.
“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.”
The Emergency Watershed Protection program supports efforts to restore eroded watersheds and damaged drinking water infrastructure. Udall and 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.