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The $1.7 trillion Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Bill was passed by Congress today, expected to be signed by President Biden tomorrow.
Congress acted today to approve the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, which includes funding for federal programs that support post-wildfire watershed restoration and flood mitigation. The legislation includes an overall $925 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWPP). The Coconino County Flood Control District (District) has two approved projects on the EWPP Project Waitlist totaling $50 million. The projects will provide flood mitigation in six neighborhoods within the Schultz/Pipeline Flood Area. The District will be considering in the near future the acceptance of these grants including ways to allocate the $12.5 million in required local matching funds.
In addition to the EWPP funding, the legislation also includes $210 million for post-wildfire disaster relief funding through the U.S. Forest Service. This funding is to be directed to projects that will address impacts to downstream communities from wildfires on National Forests including post-wildfire flooding. The District worked with the Coconino National Forest and the U.S. Forest Service Region 3 leadership to submit a $40 million request to the Forest Service Chief for watershed restoration within the nine watersheds impacted by the Pipeline Fire in 2022. The Forest Service had requested upwards of $310 million from Congress for Disaster Relief funding for projects across the country so at this time the District is working to ensure the full $40 million for these critical on-forest watershed restoration measures is provided to the District.
“The District Board of Directors wants to thank Senators Kelly and Sinema and Congressman O’Halleran for their steadfast support for post-wildfire flood mitigation funding within the Omnibus Bill. Without their leadership and advocacy for funding programs that will address this major local disaster, and disasters across the country, the communities impacted by the Pipeline Fire would continue to sustain major impacts for many, many years,” stated Patrice Horstman, Chair of the District’s Board of Directors.
The Pipeline Fire burned over 26,500 acres of dense forest across the west and east flanks of the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Arizona this past June. Monsoon rainfall events falling on the steep and severely burned slopes resulted in 45 major flood events this past summer. The resulting torrential flash flooding caused millions of dollars of damage to private properties; to date, the Flood Control District has spent over $8.2 million responding to these events. The District has further estimated that upwards of $100 million is needed to provide long-term post-wildfire watershed restoration and flood mitigation measures.