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Udall: Senate Funding For Watershed Protection A 'Big Victory' For Colorado


The U.S. Senate has slated $65.5 million of Emergency Watershed Protection funding for areas affected by last years’ deadly wildfires, including Colorado.

The funds are part of a continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown.

Colorado Senator Democrat Mark Udall says the funding is a big victory for watersheds damaged by the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires. “We needed those monies right away, but we’re going to have those monies after 7 months,” said Udall. “It’ll help meet the $20 million in watershed repair needs for both the Waldo Canyon area then up north for the High Park Fire, which is going to affect everything having to do with the Poudre River.”

The Senate funding comes a week after the U.S. House included watershed protection funds in its version of a continuing resolution.

Additional funding for the Emergency Watershed Protectionprogram would help communities protect vital water supplies damaged by natural disasters.

And while it’s taken a while for Congress to join him in support of the funding, Udall says doing so is a smart investment.“On the front end, you can imagine the costs if we have floods and mud flows and our water treatment systems are overcome with sediment. It would be much more expensive to have to make those fixes after the fact,” said Udall. 

Credit Nathan Heffel / KUNC
Greeley Water's Diversion Dam near the mouth of the Poudre River.

That delay in Federal funding has not stopped the city of Greeley from its work to repair fire scorched areas along the Poudre River. City officials there say the risk to their water supply will increase as the spring snowmelt sends ash and sootinto the river.

Despite the considerable wrangling in Congress over disaster relief, Udall says there's still a role for the Federal government to play in natural disaster recovery.

“Communities are small, often they don’t have the necessary resources or the expertise,” said Udall. “We bring the Forest Service and other federal agencies that really know our forests. The Soil Conservation Service which knows how you conserve water and maintain your soils to keep your landscapes healthy. They’re a really important part of this effort.”

The Senate could vote on its continuing resolution later this week. Then both the Senate and the House must sort out the differences between the two bills. Since both include the watershed protection funding, Udall says he’s confident the final bill sent to the President will allocate federal money for assistance.

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