by Pam Zubeck
A coalition of public officials and others from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs is pushing Colorado's congressional delegation to secure funding for help with watershed protection and mitigation after wildfires in Colorado claimed more than 600 homes and 100,000 acres of forest land last year.
A letter dated today, Jan. 9, was sent by leaders in El Paso and Larimer counties, the cities of Colorado Springs and Greeley, Pikes Peak Council of Governments, Colorado Springs Utilties, Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, Colorado Municipal League, and Colorado Counties Inc.
The money would come from a bill for disaster help for Hurricane Sandy, which the House of Representatives failed to act on last week.
In the Pikes Peak region, the Waldo Canyon Fire ignited June 23 and destroyed 345 homes and charred more than 18,000 acres. The High Park fire, which started June 9 in Larimer County, claimed 259 homes and some 87,000 acres. The Waldo killed two people in the city, and the High Park, one.
Here's the letter:
We are writing to urge you to support the inclusion of $19.8 million for Colorado Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) funding in the Supplemental Appropriation for Disaster Assistance. The EWP program is a critically important tool in assisting our communities by implementing emergency recovery measures for restoring our watersheds, and protecting life safety and critical infrastructure damaged by this summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon and High Park wildfires. Both El Paso and Larimer counties believe that EWP is needed to allow the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to fund critical wildfire restoration and mitigation projects.
Waldo Canyon Projects
The City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities need additional funding to reduce flooding, sedimentation and debris flow impacts on facilities critical to collecting, storing and conveying raw drinking water to approximately 70% of city residents.
El Paso County is working 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. Additionally, the Navigators and Flying W Ranch need additional funds to protect public and private facilities, including significant historic structures such as Glen Eyrie Castle.
High Park Projects
High Park fire area water providers (City of Fort Collins, City of Greeley and the Tri- Districts) use the Cache La Poudre River to supply drinking water to over 300,000 residents as well as many water-dependent industries that support the economic viability of the region. Watershed restoration funding is critical to reducing sediment loads and infrastructure damage, and therefore maintaining a safe, economical drinking water supply in the region.
Over 200 miles of roads exist within the High Park fire burn area in Larimer County. This includes 42 miles of Larimer County roads, 25 miles of State Highway, 40 miles of US Forest Service Roads, and 98 miles of private roads. These roads provide customary and emergency access to the residential and traveling public, as well as access to fire fighters. Emergency watershed restoration funding would assist in protecting or restoring the integrity of these roads by reducing peak runoff flows and preventing debris hazards and damage.