Bipartisan western senators request USDA funds for Colorado River basin infrastructure and planning
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., this week led a bipartisan group of six other western senators in sending a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue requesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture direct a portion of recently appropriated funds for the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program (Watershed Act) to the Colorado River Basin.
In the letter, the senators highlight the need to direct Watershed Act funding to the Colorado River Basin to help farmers and ranchers increase efficiency, conserve water and improve yields.
The Watershed Act provides technical and financial assistance to states, local governments and tribes to support off-farm conservation projects that improve resiliency, support water conservation and protect water quality. For the first time since 2010, the program received $150 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2017 to support new and existing shovel-ready projects, surveys and planning activities.
“We request that you provide $75 million of this funding to the CRB over a multi-year period to address critical water infrastructure and drought contingency planning needs in the Upper and Lower basins,” the senators wrote.
The Colorado River Basin has experienced 16 years of persistent drought and will likely face challenges with water supply and demand in the future. Despite investing more than $6 billion annually in on-farm conservation, USDA programs do not always address the specific needs of western agriculture. In the letter, the senators state that additional investment in off-farm improvements through the Watershed Act will help address critical water infrastructure needs in the Colorado River Basin and enhance conservation in the west.
“(This funding) can help correct this bias against western agriculture by addressing previously unfunded water infrastructure and drought contingency planning needs in our states,” the senators wrote.
– U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Dean Heller