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Mountain West to receive millions for disaster relief

Flooding washed out a bridge at Rescue Creek in Yellowstone National Park in Montana on Monday.
National Park Service via AP
Flooding washed out a bridge at Rescue Creek in Yellowstone National Park in Montana on Monday.

News brief: 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set aside about $400 million to help communities recovering from disasters like floods and wildfires. Parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Montana are set to receive funding.

Much of the money is supporting recovery from disasters that affected the Mountain West in recent years. Last June, a generational flood devastated Yellowstone National Park and parts of Montana. In 2021, the Marshall Fire torched communities near Denver, and 2022's Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire in New Mexico was the state's most destructive. Areas near Moab and Henrieville, Utah, saw destructive flash floods last year.

The USDA – through its Emergency Watershed Protection program – is aiding recovery efforts in those communities by, for example, restoring damages to watersheds and stormwater systems. Shawn Follum, the Wyoming state conservation engineer for the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, said the funding will make the region more resilient during future flood events.

“What we’re doing in one location is basically going in along the stream bed [and] reinforcing it so it doesn't continue to create additional damage and impairments to the watershed,” he said. “There's a significant backlog of work out there and these things really help out in trying to accomplish meeting our infrastructure goals around the state.”

Millions more will go toward the EWP buyout program in especially risky flood zones, a program that directs funding for easements that allow local sponsors to restore land to its natural condition.

This recent investment is one of several efforts by the Biden administration for infrastructure projects in rural communities in the West.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Will Walkey

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