Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Rep. Pettersen’s plans to improve Colorado water infrastructure clear major hurdle

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U.S. Representative Brittany Pettersen’s (CO-07) provisions in the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), a legislative package that enables the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve and develop waterways and water infrastructure in the United States, cleared a major hurdle as it passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on a bipartisan basis.

Rep. Pettersen pushed for a $50 million investment to reconnect John Griffin Park Channels to the Arkansas River, which were formerly a floodplain; urged the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers provides increased support for communities to navigate water resource development projects; and supported a provision that supports better labels of potentially dangerous low-head dams, protecting recreators, such as rafters and kayakers.

“Water is critical to our Colorado way of life, and with climate change and a growing population, it will continue to be one of our most precious resources,” said Pettersen. “It’s so important to listen to our communities and work together to find solutions that invest in and improve our water infrastructure. After hearing from Cañon City officials about the need to reconnect Arkansas River channels so water flows to John Griffin Park, I pushed to have their plan included in WRDA and make it a reality. This investment will bolster water conservation, protect against wildfires, and support increased recreational use – and now we’re one step closer to it being law.”

In late May, Rep. Pettersen visited John Griffin Park in Cañon City, where she heard updates from local and regional officials about efforts to reconnect the park’s channels to the Arkansas River.

“The creation of a reservoir within John Griffin Regional Park has the potential to meet three critical needs within our community; raw water storage for resiliency of the community water system, creation of recreational opportunities that don’t currently exist in the community, and ecological restoration of degraded riparian habitat along the Arkansas River,” said Travis Payne, Water Superintendent for the City of Cañon City. “The project presents as a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community and we appreciate the Congresswoman’s willingness and dedication in helping out progressing the project forward.”

Pettersen’s provisions in WRDA include:

John Griffin Regional Reservoir Project: $50 million investment to reconnect the John Griffin Regional Park in Cañon City channels to the Arkansas River ecosystem. Today, landscape scars in John Griffin Regional Park demonstrate that this area once had a wide floodplain with braided channels. Today, side channels still exist, but are disconnected from the Arkansas River, leading to potential floods and other natural disasters. This investment will reconnect remaining side channels and boost water storage, create a natural barrier to protect against wildfires, and create more space for recreational use.

Establishing Community Project Navigators: Amends WRDA to create a new community project advisory program to assist non-federal interests with water resource development. Rep. Pettersen pushed for a similar provision to support communities with federal water infrastructure projects. Rep. Pettersen pushed for improvements like this.

Low-head Dam Inventory in the National Inventory of Dams: The previous iteration of WRDA, which passed in 2022, required that the National Low-Head Dam Inventory be included in the National Inventory of Dams. However, it didn’t include low-head dams. Rep. Pettersen pushed for the inclusion of low-head dams mapping in the 2024 WRDA, to ensure that this was reflected in the National Inventory of Dams. This will help protect recreators, such as rafters and kayakers, by identifying potentially dangerous low-head dams.

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