Gardner optimistic about federal funding for wildfire relief

Gardner optimistic about federal funding for wildfire relief

19 January 2013

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USA — U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said Wednesday he’s secured a promise from a key House committee chairman to provide funding for efforts to mitigate damage to drinking water caused by wildfires in northern Colorado last summer.

Gardner initially fought to have an amendment attached to the Superstorm Sandy $50.5 billion relief bill that would have given Colorado a chance to compete for Emergency Watershed Protection funding.

It was rejected, but Gardner is hopeful that Colorado and other western states will still receive the $125 million in funding.

“We did, however, get a commitment on the floor of the House of Representatives in a colloquy that I introduced to with (House Appropriations Chairman) Hal Rogers,” said Gardner in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I did secure his commitment for Emergency Watershed Protection funding for the wildfires in Colorado and the West.”

Rogers is a Republican from Kentucky.

“It means that he will work with us to get that money secured,” Gardner said.

Gardner said he assumes that the funding will still be around $125 million.

“Of that money, Colorado’s identified needs of that program were about $19.8 million,” Gardner said. “It would take additional legislation either through a standalone bill, or perhaps through the appropriations process within the next couple months.”

The city of Greeley sent out a news release Wednesday thanking the congressional delegation for help with wildfire mitigation funding.

In the new release, it said: “We are hopeful that in the budget process in the coming months, the U.S. Congress will support our emergency measures already undertaken, and those yet remaining, to limit damage to the Poudre River and the drinking water supply for more than 300,000 residents. We applaud the bipartisan support we have received from our delegation members and are grateful for their work on our behalf.”

Gardner voted against the final passage of the Superstorm Sandy emergency package,

“I was really torn because I thought the message that this Congress was sending is that if you suffer a natural disaster in New York, you’re going to get help, but if you suffer a natural disaster in Colorado you’re not going to get help,” Gardner said.

Gardner did vote for Rogers’ amendment to provide immediate relief for the victims in the northeast of Sandy, but he voted against the ultimate package because it treated victims in Colorado and New York differently.

“You certainly have a very vocal governor of New Jersey, and a very vocal delegation from New York that was threatening to vote against the Speaker of the House,” Gardner said. “You have a national media that’s headquartered in New York City.”

Gardner was frustrated that his amendment was rejected.

“It’s frustrating that the Emergency Watershed Protection program passed through Sandy relief for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but people in the western United States who suffered through one of the worst fire seasons on record were excluded,” Gardner said. “For whatever reason and I don’t want to speculate other than what I heard Chairman Hal Rogers say at rules committee, was we want this to be about the hurricane only.”

Gardner said he had no problem calling out members of his own Republican Party who failed to see the importance of the wildfire issue and the damage to the drinking water.

“I’m not afraid to buck my party, and I’ll continue to buck them on this and other issues,” Gardner said.

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