June 10, 2013 Updated: June 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm
El Paso County will get nearly $9 million from the federal government to help rehabilitate the landscape damaged by the Waldo Canyon fire, Sen. Mark Udall announced on Monday.
The $8.8 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are known as Emergency Watershed Protection funds, and are a part of grant of $20 million that was awarded in March to Colorado. The money is destined to help repair watersheds damaged by wildfire, as well as finance landscape recovery projects being done in burn scars across the state.
The deal has been in the works months, but officials don't have a date for when the money will be in the hands of El Paso County officials, Udall said.
"These funds are timely at any point," he added. Last fall, Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet started championing the cause to get watershed protection funds for Colorado. They were joined in the push by El Paso County and state officials and a bipartisan effort by the Colorado delegation to secure the funds ultimately was successful.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service will dole out the money to communities impacted by the Waldo Canyon, High Park, North Fork and Weber wildfires, all of which raged in Colorado last summer. Larimer County will get $8.6 million, and the remaining $2.3 million will go to North Fork and Weber fire recovery projects.
Colorado is among 15 states to get watershed protection money, which was included in the continuing budget resolution passed by Congress in March. All of the states - including New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida - were impacted by fires, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday.
A total of $66.8 million has been set aside by the department for the 15 states.
"All 15 were impacted by a horrific fire season last year. None more so than Colorado," Vilsack said.
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