A coalition of local business, community leaders and elected officials are trying to secure a $19.8 million appropriation to federal legislation that provides disaster assistance related to Hurricane Sandy and Fort Collins High Park fire.
They say the money is sorely needed to aid with lingering Waldo Canyon fire recovery efforts.
Organizations included in the local effort include the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, El Paso County, Colorado Springs City Council, and the Regional Coalition for Strategic Federal Action. All groups are working with the city’s federal lobbyist to try to get the money added to the bill in an amendment.
No one is sure, yet, if the money will be added in amendment onto the appropriations bill that will be considered during the next few weeks.
“When I first got here, many people talked about ‘silo-ing,’ how no one worked together,” said Joe Raso, CEO of the Business Alliance. “This is a great example of how we can all work together.”
The Coalition for Federal Action is the group that paid for a federal lobbyist for three years. The lobbyist, Elise Pickering from the firm Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, is working on the project.
Colorado Springs Utilities is hoping to get repaid for about $12 million in repairs from flooding damage around the burn area. During a July 30 rainstorm, soil washed away and damaged a pipeline that can supply 70 percent of the city’s water. The cost to repair the pipe and fix a washed-out road bed nearby is $6 million, said Gary Bostrom, chief water services officer.
“Much of the burn area is on federal land,” Bostrom said. “We think it’s fair that the damage from flooding be covered – at least in part – by the federal government. It’s a direct result of the fire. We only had about 1.7 inches of rain from the storm, but the damage was far worse because of the burn.”
Bostrom says Utilities is working to prevent future flooding – the threat could last for decades – by putting in sediment traps to keep the water from washing away roads and exposing pipeline. That cost is also around $6 million, he said.
But the city and county have other issues they’d like to see addressed – help for businesses affected by the fire in Manitou Springs, fire mitigation in other parts of the city, and help rebuilding Mountain Shadows.
The state as a whole is asking for money, Bostrom said. Some of it will go to the High Park fire damage in Fort Collins, while some could come to Colorado Springs.
The El Paso County Board of Commissioners has sent a letter to Washington, outlining the projects that the money will cover. For instance, the county is working with private landowers, the Colorado Department of Transportation, School District 14 and others to protect Manitou Springs and Highway 24 West from significant erosion and flooding issues. The Navigators and Flying W Ranch also need additional money to protect public and private facilities, including historic structures such as Glen Eyrie Castle.
But time is limited. The House of Representatives is currently discussing the proposed amendment. Raso is asking residents to call Congressman Doug Lamborn to encourage him to support the amendment.
“That’s the part we’re not sure about,” he said. “If the amendment gets out of committee, we need to have the support of the Colorado congressional delegation. It’d be great if people could let them know how much this money is needed.”
Lamborn’s office phone number in Washington, D.C. is 202-225-4422.