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Udall Questions House Lawmakers' Failure to Take Up Watershed-Relief Funding

Legislation Would Have Helped Colorado Communities Confront Lasting Effects of 2012 Wildfires

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mark Udall questioned the U.S. House of Representatives' failure to quickly take up the Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance, which included critical funding for the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program. The legislation the Senate passed last week, which will die if the House does not act before midday tomorrow, set aside $125 million to be used, in part, for watershed recovery efforts following this year's devastating wildfires.

"I am concerned that, despite weeks of bipartisan work on this critical disaster legislation, the House has declined to even consider this proposal to fund watershed remediation efforts in Colorado and across the West. Confronting the lasting effects of the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires is the fiscally responsible approach and could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the long term," Udall said. "If the House does not finish its work, we will need to start over from scratch in the new session of Congress. Even if the House declines to provide this timely assistance, I remain committed to helping the communities whose critical water supplies continue to suffer because of last summer's devastating and record-breaking wildfires. I will work with my colleagues of both parties to ensure the Emergency Watershed Protection Program is not forgotten in the new year."

Udall has been a strong advocate of ensuring that Colorado and the nation are appropriately equipped to confront the threat of wildfire — before, during and after. Earlier this year, Udall led the charge to expedite the U.S. Forest Service's acquisition of seven next-generation air tankers. Udall also has been the leading voice for studying past fires to improve federal efforts to fight and mitigate wildfires.

Udall recently worked with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to offer a separate amendment to the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance to fully fund the U.S. Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Management Fund.

Last month, Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) introduced legislation to boost resources for the EWP Program. And last month, Udall joined with Bennet and Representatives Jared Polis, Doug Lamborn, and Cory Gardner to urge the president and Appropriations Committee leaders to include the EWP Program in the Hurricane Sandy disaster supplemental.

Udall and Bennet also worked last year to introduce an amendment to the U.S. House of Representatives' proposal to keep the government running for the next six months, commonly referred to as the Continuing Resolution, to secure emergency funding for the EWP Program.

By: Mike Saccone
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