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Udall, Bennet Introduce Amendment to Address Wildfire-Damaged Watersheds

Amendment Would Change Bill to Make Colorado Eligible for Emergency Watershed Protection Funds

Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced an amendment today to the disaster-relief legislation that would help Colorado communities in El Paso, Larimer, Teller and Weld counties repair their drinking water supplies damaged during the 2012 wildfires. The amendment follows the U.S. House of Representatives failures this year to include Emergency Watershed Protection funds for Colorado in the disaster-relief bill and last year to pass legislation Udall and Bennet championed that included wildfire-relief assistance.

"This bill is an emergency appropriations bill for national disasters — not just Hurricane Sandy — and is our best chance to quickly help Colorado communities confront the lasting effects of the 2012 wildfires," Udall said. "Coloradans have been waiting for Emergency Watershed Protection funds for over six months and timing is critical. These projects must get started now before our spring snow melt potentially sends tons of ash and sediment into our water supplies and buries homes and infrastructure under mudslides and floodwaters. The Colorado emergencies occurred before the Hurricane Sandy emergencies, and should not have to continue to wait to be addressed. Very few emergency supplemental bills pass Congress; this bill is passing now, and because all Americans are in this together, the bill should include much-needed aid for Colorado."

"As Coloradans continue to recover from last summer's devastating wildfires, these resources are critical to help protect drinking water and watersheds," Bennet said. "The House delivered a blow to our state by removing the funding the Senate included for Colorado in the Sandy disaster relief bill. It’s frustrating because leaving these projects unaddressed will inevitably cost more money down the road. Senator Udall and I will continue to make these disaster recovery resources a priority."

Delays by the House to quickly pass disaster-relief legislation this year and last year could force the Senate to limit amendments and debate to quickly secure relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Udall and Bennet's amendment does not add a single cent to the bill and instead simply reverses the House's decision to exclude Colorado from receiving Emergency Watershed Protection Program funds. The amendment would allow some of the funds to be used for other watershed projects across the country, including repairing drinking water supplies affected by 2012 wildfires.

Last month, Udall and Bennet introduced legislation to boost resources for the EWP Program. And in November, 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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