2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Cost of wildfire recovery in Colorado

    Tue, May 28, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    County commissioners from El Paso and Larimer Counties will be meeting tomorrow in Denver to discuss the state of wildfire recovery projects and efforts for the Waldo Canyon and High Park fire burn scars.

    El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, whose district encompasses acres of burned forest as well as Mountain Shadows, will be attending the meeting. In an email, Clark said the meeting should be mostly for planning and funding for future projects. Clark also passed along a great list of the current projects underway in El Paso County.

    Based on a round-up of the costs of recovery efforts in both counties, it looks like El Paso is coming out on top.

    Here are some highlights:

    • Thus far, recovery efforts for El Paso County have reached $10,564,833. That compares to $9,199,941 in Larimer.
    • Of all the agencies involved in recovery, the U.S. Forest Service has the most expensive of the various recovery projects, costing $5,631,869.
    • A large amount of money for recovery and flood prevention projects came to the city of Colorado Springs through a Colorado Fire Relief Fund grant.
    • The city of Manitou Springs spent $18,750 on emergency alert sirens.

    I’m working on a way to attach the spreadsheet, which lists all the costs. More to come.


  • Colorado to be awarded $19.8 million for watershed protection

    Wed, April 24, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Sen. Mark Udall’s office got the news Tuesday that Colorado will receive $19.8 million from the federal government to help with emergency watershed protection.

    It’s yet another step forward in the long battle to get Colorado some wildfire recovery money–a battle that started last August, following a devastating fire season, when several of the state’s watersheds were compromised by wildfire. Local and state politicians rallied to the cause, after several setbacks, and in March got Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP)  funds included in the continuing resolution.

    The Natural Resources Conservation Service gave Colorado the $19 million, which should then be evenly split between communities affected by the High Park and Waldo Canyon fire.

    As for when the money will actually reach Colorado, Udall’s office wasn’t sure. Once it gets into the hands of local officials, the money will be allocated to various erosion control and watershed projects throughout El Paso County.

    Check out a timeline of the EWP process.

  • President Obama signs off on Emergency Watershed Protection money

    Wed, March 27, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Well, technically the President signed off on the overall federal budget Tuesday, set to see the government through the end of the fiscal year.

    But part of that budget are Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP)  program funds, $65.5 million of them,  some of which could come to Colorado to help repair watersheds damaged by the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.

    But the saga of EWP is hardly over.  Next, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has to approve $17.6 million for Colorado, which will then be divided among Larimer, El Paso and Weld Counties.

    Check out this timeline of the EWP journey to and and through Congress.

  • Long battle for watershed protection money comes to an end

    Thu, March 21, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    After months of lobbying and a leaping hurtles in the U.S. House and Senate, the fight for Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) finally came to an end on Thursday.

    Congress passed the continuing resolution, which includes in it $65.5 million set aside to help states like Colorado fund watershed restoration projects.  For local elected officials, it took months of lobbying and trips to Washington, D.C. to draw attention to their cause.

    Here’s a timeline of the push for EWP.


  • Senate vote could grant Colorado millions for watershed repair

    Wed, January 30, 2013 by kayladnls with no comments

    El Paso County officials and Colorado senators have been on a months-long crusade to get millions of dollars from Washington, D.C. to help repair wildfire damage to watersheds across the state.  And it looks like their wishes might be granted — if only partially.

    Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $48.2 million of Emergency Watershed Protection, or EWP,  funds that could be divided among 18 states who need them. This week, officials are waiting for the U.S. Senate to make a similar vote, but for $65.5 million, that could all but guarantee a few million funds for Colorado.

    The senate is expected to vote Thursday night, but the vote could be pushed back until Monday,  according to a spokeswoman for Senator Michael Bennet, one of two Colorado senators who has been championing the cause since last year.

    Originally, Colorado officials were hoping to siphon some money out of $125 million set aside in a Hurricane Sandy recovery bill.  But, the money was cut from the bill last year.  In the meantime,  local officials have been relying on other ways to fund restoration projects on the hillsides destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire.

    The new resolution would most likely only grant up to $65 million.

    Even if the EWP vote makes it through the senate, that is hardly the end of the negotiations, said El Paso Count Commissioner Sallie Clark.  Along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Clark and other officials will be prioritizing the restoration projects in El Paso County to determine where the money will go, when and if they get it. Clark is hoping that the funds will be approved in time for the spring and summer rains, which could bring significant risk of flash flooding.

    Top on Clark’s list is flood prevention work in Williams Canyon, above Manitou Springs, she said on Wednesday. Officials in Larimer County are concerned about water quality if Greely and Fort Collins after local watersheds were heavily damaged by the High Park fire last summer.