Experts: Emergency Watershed Protection Bill Is Crucial

POSTED: 04:30 PM MDT Mar 18, 2013    UPDATED: 08:00 PM MDT Mar 18, 2013 

According to County Commissioner Sallie Clark, a bill for $65.5 million in Emergency Watershed Protection funding could mean close to $9 million for El Paso County.

“We know the projects.  We’ve identified them.  We just need the dollars available from the federal government to implement these mitigation techniques that are part of the recovery efforts from the Waldo Canyon Fire,” said Clark.

John Andrews, director of engineering with the federal National Resources Conservation Service, said the money would go toward funding aerial mulching, private land treatments, ground erosion control and flood protection and diversion measures to mitigate risk to residential and commercial properties.

“They’re just critical to be able to reduce the risk to life and property in the case of a rainstorm on the fire-burned area,” said Andrews.

Clark said the projects have been identified and approved; the county is just waiting for the necessary funding.

Clark and Andrews added that while the money is needed, it will only cover a fraction of the projects necessary for restoring the burned area in the long term.

“The scope of our EWP program is limited to the risks from erosion and flooding.  Certainly the impacts from the fire extend beyond that and these dollars were identified last summer as needed to meet the most urgent needs.  There will be ongoing needs for many years as the forest recovers,” said Andrews.

A decision has not yet been made on the bill.  A representative for Sen. Michael Bennett told KRDO Newschannel 13 that a decision will most likely be made Tuesday morning.