House passes spending bill with money for watershed program

6:45 PM, Mar 6, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON - A $1 trillion House spending bill that passed Wednesday includes $48.3 million for a watershed protection program that could help Colorado recover fully from last year's wildfires.

The vote was 267-151 in favor of the measure, which would keep the government running through September and give the Pentagon leeway to decide how to implement across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in March 1.

The Senate is expected to pass a competing bill. It's not clear if that version will include money for the Emergency Watershed Restoration program, which would help Colorado and other states recover from natural disasters.

Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said drinking water supplies in Northern Colorado and Colorado Springs could be contaminated by wildfire debris.

"While the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires were put out months ago, the lasting damage is far from being repaired," said Gardner, who lobbied for the watershed money. "Every time there is heavy rain or snow the runoff contains debris from the fires that is polluting our rivers and reservoirs."

Another advocate for the watershed funds, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, missed the House vote.

He said he had to be in Colorado for personal reasons and flew out before a snowstorm arrived in Washington.

He would've rejected the spending bill if he'd been present.

"I do share the same concerns that President Obama had," Polis said in a telephone interview. "Keeping the government open is critical and this bill does it. But it would've been nice to see it done in a better way."

The White House objected to the GOP bill, saying it would avert automatic spending reductions just for military and veterans programs, though numerous other domestic programs are also affected by the $85 billion in compulsory, across-the-board cuts to this year's budget.

Senate Democrats are working on a package to block cuts to military and non-military programs under the so-called budget sequestration process. Senate leaders plan to schedule a vote next week.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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