The House last week included $48 million in the Continuing Resolution to fund government operations that will be directed to Emergency Watershed Protection efforts in areas ravaged by wildfire.
According to The Denver Post's Allison Sherry, Colorado should expect about $17 million of the $20 million officials requested. The measure must still pass the Senate and be signed into law, which is expected to happen.
The hangup, as we wrote in January, had been the House.
In the 112th Congress, the Senate included watershed money in an emergency relief bill. Unfortunately, the House didn't follow suit.
Now, some nine months after the state's most devastating wildfire season, crews can finally get to the work of mitigating burned areas in hopes of avoiding additional damage to public utilities.
With trees and ground cover scorched by fire, there is less to slow water as it barrels downhill during rainstorms. The downward journey can cause flooding and result in sediment being deposited in rivers and reservoirs and can damage municipal water supplies.
As El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark said: "We have a hurricane waiting to happen if we don't do anything to protect the watershed."
Reps. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and Jared Polis, D-Boulder, are deserving of credit for pushing for the money to be included in the continuing resolution.
"Our state's delegation has worked together in this fight we and will continue to make Colorado's case to Congress and the Administration until this funding is made available to Colorado," Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet wrote in The Gazette.
Providing money for emergency relief is a critical function of the federal government. As Sherry reported, the EWP money assuming the measure passes the Senate and is signed by the president will allow some areas to be treated with soil retention pods, tree removal, mulch and special seeding to make the land better able to absorb water.
With luck, the work can be done before a serious runoff event brings additional damage to areas already reeling as a result of last summer's wildfires.
Nearly a year after a devastating fire season, we're pleased to see Washington finally coming together to help Colorado and other states take steps to tackle an important piece of their recovery efforts.
The Denver Post, March 12