Friday, March 22, 2013

Regional Efforts Impact Wildfire Recovery Funding Approval

The efforts of regional and in this case, statewide and national groups have finally paid off for Colorado and many other states with the approval of Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Thanks to El Paso County's local partnerships with the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, the City of Colorado Springs, the City of Manitou Springs, the Town of Green Mountain Falls, Colorado Springs Utilities and a long list of community and non-profit partners, there has been success in securing federal dollars to assist with post-Waldo Canyon fire and flood mitigation.  It also underscores how important it has been to work working alongside the Larimer County Commissioners, Colorado Counties, Inc., the Colorado Municipal League and the National Association of Counties. I wanted to share with you, a press release that was recently distributed on behalf of the Coalition.  I'll continue to voice my support for needed mitigation dollars and champion healthy forest initiatives that seek to manage our forests and resources more wisely, in order to prevent future fires like the Waldo Canyon (El Paso County) and High Park (Larimer County). Many thanks to our Colorado Congressional delegation members from both the U.S. House and Senate who have worked so hard to make these EWP funds available to our state.

 -Sallie Clark, El Paso County Commissioner District 3, Colorado
Regional Coalition – Funding for Wildfire Recovery and Flood Prevention Group Praises Efforts of Unified Colorado Congressional Delegation

Colorado Springs, CO, March 21, 2013 – Final Congressional approval of $65.5 million for watershed repair and flood mitigation projects in several states means the critical funding is now included in legislation sent to the President for his signature. Members of the Regional Coalition for Strategic Federal Action have been in constant contact with Colorado’s Congressional delegation for months in an effort to secure $17.6 million in additional federal funds for mitigation projects in El Paso and Larimer counties.  The Waldo Canyon Fire in El Paso County and the High Park Fire in Larimer have dramatically increased the risk of flash flooding this spring and summer.

“Members of Coalition could not be more encouraged by this great news for our friends and neighbors most impacted by the Waldo Canyon fire,” said Stephannie Finley of UCCS who serves as coordinator for the coalition.  “Our community came together and worked tirelessly with members of the Colorado Congressional delegation and our Colorado Congressional delegation pulled together in a wonderfully bi-partisan way.   In addition we forged a valuable partnership with Larimer County resulting in an effective Front Range coalition for Colorado.”   Members of the Coalition also noted the exceptional leadership of Commissioner Sallie Clark, Mayor Steve Bach, and Councilman Val Snider in securing this badly needed funding.

The U.S. Forest Service, State of Colorado, El Paso County, City of Colorado Springs Colorado Springs Utilities and volunteers from the Coalition for the Upper South Platte have funded assessments and initial design work to identify erosion control, detention and drainage channel improvements which are critical to reduce the risk of large scale mudslides and flash flooding.  Some of the most urgently needed projects have already been completed.

El Paso County continues to work with private landowners, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), School District 14 and others to protect the City of Manitou Springs and Highway 24 West from significant erosion and flooding issues which also threaten lives and property in the Ute Pass areas of Chipita Park and Cascade.

The City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities have identified projects needed to reduce flooding, sedimentation and debris flow impacts Colorado Springs municipal water supply.  Facilities to collect, store and transport raw drinking water for approximately 70% of city residents were severely impacted by flooding which occurred during a typical summer rain a few weeks after the fire was brought under control.

The money can also be used for qualified flood control projects on private lands and to protect significant structures such as Glen Eyrie Castle and the Flying W Ranch.

Once the bill has been signed by the President, the funds will be transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture which administers Emergency Watershed Protection funds.  It is estimated that the funds could be available for already approved mitigation projects in El Paso County about three weeks after it is approved by the President.

The Regional Coalition for Strategic Federal Action is a group comprised of 12 private & public organizations working with the Washington lobbying firm of Mehlman, Vogel & Castignatti to address high priority issues for all residents of El Paso County.