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Senate Rejects Udall-Bennet Emergency Watershed Restoration Amendment

The U.S. Senate declined to consider an amendment introduced by Colorado Democratic Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet that would have provided emergency watershed restoration funding for areas of Colorado damaged by last year's wildfires.

The amendment was introduced in the Senate after the funding was removed from a Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill passed by the U.S House earlier this month.

In a statement, Udall says the funding could have gone to communities in Larimer, Weld, El Paso and Teller counties for restoration of watersheds and repair of drinking water infrastructure.

"The threats wildfire pose persist long after the final embers are extinguished. Coloradans living in and around the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires know that the earth was burned down to bedrock. Even minor rainfalls or snow melts could potentially send tons of ash and sediment into our water supplies and destroy homes and infrastructure with mudslides and floodwaters."

According to Senator Udall, the amendment would not have added 'a single cent' to the Senate version of the Sandy disaster relief bill, but would release funds to be used for watershed projects across the country and in Colorado, something that was not allowed in the House bill.

"I am exceptionally disappointed that the House stripped out wildfire relief from this disaster assistance package. But the House's lack of action won't stop us. I plan to continue to find any means available to secure help for Colorado. The Colorado wildfires occurred more than six months ago — well before the Hurricane Sandy emergencies — and should not have to continue to wait to be addressed. I plan to continue to remind Washington that we are all in this together."

Colorado Congressmen, including Republican Cory Gardner from House District 4, were also disappointed the funding was removed from the House disaster relief bill. Gardner says he will continue efforts to allocate the funding in future legislation.

Area water managers concerned spring snow melt could send soot and ash into critical watersheds say they will continue their restoration efforts despite the lack of federal funding.

The Poudre River which serves as a main source of drinking water for Greeley and Fort Collins was heavily polluted after the High Park Fire. While relatively clean now, Greeley water managers are continuing their efforts to mitigate any future damage and contamination to the river through projects funded by the city.

The $51 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill passed the Senate this afternoon and now heads to President Obama's desk for his signature.

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