House fails to approve Colo. money for watershed protection

Despite a full-court press by Colorado Springs’ business and community leaders, its federal lobbyist and the state’s congressional delegation, no money was approved for watershed management or protection after the Waldo Canyon fire and the High Park fire.

The House of Representatives failed to pass an amendment to an appropriations bill that delegated funds to the East Coast states hit by Hurricane Sandy. Despite persistent lobbying from Colorado, an amendment that might have brought $19.8 million to the Springs to help with flood mitigation and to repair pipelines damaged by flooding in the burn area failed to pass the committee.

But the idea might not be completely dead. Congressman Cory Gardner put out a press release that he was able to secure a commitment from the appropriations committee head, Hal Rogers of Kentucky, to support watershed protection funding in the future.

“The devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is extraordinary, but it’s also important that disaster assistance be available to other areas that experience natural disasters especially when it comes to federal lands,” Gardner said.

The amendment would have provided money to reimburse Colorado Springs Utilities for damage to a back-up water line near the Rampart Reservoir. The pipeline was exposed during flooding in the burn area in July. It also would have provided funds to pay for mitigation and flood control along state Highway 24 above Manitou Springs, which saw a mudslide after a thunderstorm.

The Waldo Canyon fire damaged or destroyed nearly 400 homes in Colorado Springs, and took two lives last summer.