Nation on alert as bushfires spread, Gillard warns NSW residents to be vigilant

House rejects wildfire relief funding

15 January 2013

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USA — Lawmakers in the U.S. House rejected an amendment attached to a Hurricane Sandy disaster relief bill that would have funded Northern Colorado wildfire restoration efforts.

However, lawmakers continued Tuesday to seek funding in future legislation.

The amendment’s failure Monday night followed a visit to Greeley by Sen. Michael Bennet hours earlier aimed at pressuring Congress to include $125 million for an Emergency Watershed Protection program to states affected by wildfires. The cities of Greeley and Fort Collins sought $6.5 million from the amendment for restoration to protect drinking water.

The amendment from Rep. Cory Gardner failed as part of a bill that will fund relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The House Rules Committee, which approves amendments before they head to the floor, stopped Gardner’s amendment from advancing Monday night.

Reps. Jared Polis, Doug Lamborn, Ed Perlmutter and Scott Tipton also sponsored the amendment.

Gardner was disappointed that Colorado communities that needed aid could not benefit from the bill.

“Over 600 families lost their homes this summer due to devastating wildfires and now 300,000 people are faced with the prospect of contaminated drinking water as debris from the fires gets washed into our rivers and reservoirs,” Gardner said in a statement. “EWP funding is essential to helping these communities maintain a safe supply of drinking water for the families and businesses that depend on it.”

However, Gardner’s office said later Tuesday that he secured a commitment from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers to support funding for Emergency Watershed Protection in future legislation.

Sens. Bennet and Mark Udall secured Emergency Watershed Protection funding in a bill that passed the Senate on Dec. 28. Lawmakers in the House, however, did not take up the bill before the session adjourned Jan. 2, and the measure expired.

Cities already have spent $3.5 million to spread straw on mountainsides to stabilize soil and stop soot from entering the Cache la Poudre River. They needed a total of almost $10 million to complete the job.

Last summer’s wildfires damaged watersheds statewide, increasing the risk of flash-flooding and road washouts as well as threatening water supplies.

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