Colorado, other states could receive fire damage relief

Colorado and nine other states could soon receive $48.3 million in Emergency Watershed Protection dollars to fund repair of damage caused by last year’s devastating High Park Fire and other wildfires.

The House Appropriations Committee said Monday that it included the funding in a bill at the request of Rep. Cory Gardner, according to the Yuma Republican’s office.

The money will help cover the costs of repairs to damage that poses an “imminent threat to lives and property,” Gardner’s office said in a statement.

Colorado faces a nearly $20 million backlog for projects covered by the Watershed Protection program, according to a letter written earlier this year by U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Colorado senators worked with the Appropriations Committee late last year to include the funding in a disaster recovery bill that passed the Senate.

However, House lawmakers did not vote on the bill, and it expired at the end of the 112th Congress.

In the 113th Congress, the House drafted a new Hurricane Sandy aid bill without Emergency Watershed Protection aid for Colorado and other states hit by disasters. Gardner’s request addressed that.

Northern Colorado cities already have spent millions of dollars spreading straw on mountainsides to stabilize soil and stop soot from enter the Cache la Poudre River following last summer’s destructive High Park fire. They need millions more to finish the job.

The bill still needs to win approval in both chambers.

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