Udall, Bennet push amendment to safeguard NoCo water

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet introduced an amendment Wednesday that would authorize as much as $180 million in Emergency Watershed Protection funding for states affected by disasters, including for Colorado wildfires.

The disaster-relief legislation that would help Larimer, Weld, El Paso and Teller counties take steps to protect drinking water threatened during last year’s wildfires.

The amendment follows a decision by House lawmakers not to include Emergency Watershed Protection funds for Colorado in the Hurricane Sandy disaster-relief bill.

The Senate bill is an emergency appropriations bill for national disasters, not just Hurricane Sandy, and is the best chance to quickly help Colorado communities confront the lasting effects of last year’s wildfires, Udall said in a statement.

“Coloradans have been waiting for Emergency Watershed Protection funds for over six months and timing is critical,” he said. “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 funding is 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,” he said. “It’s frustrating because leaving these projects unaddressed will inevitably cost more money down the road.”

Bennet said he and Udall will continue to make these disaster recovery resources a priority.

Udall’s and Bennet’s amendment does not add any funding to the disaster-relief bill. Instead, it makes funding available for states where President Obama already has made disaster declarations. The amendment would allow some of the Sandy funds to be used for other watershed projects across the country, including repairing drinking water supplies affected by 2012 wildfires.

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