WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources, today announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has accepted their request to review the effectiveness and implementation of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP).
Administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), EWP is an important tool designed to reduce financial strain and help communities across the West address imminent threats following a wildfire. However, communities often face challenges when attempting to use EWP to support recovery efforts, including after fires in Colorado and Utah in 2018. The GAO review, which will commence in the coming months, will lead to recommendations to improve EWP and more effectively assist communities recovering from wildfires across the West.
“It is welcome news that the Government Accountability Office has accepted our request in a timely manner,” Senator Romney said. “As the review process moves forward, I will continue working with our state and federal partners to ensure that communities across Utah have the support they need as they recover from the damage of wildfires.”
“I’m glad the Government Accountability Office heard our concerns and will quickly take up this review,” Senator Bennet said. “We look forward to working with the GAO and stakeholders across Colorado to ensure the federal government is an effective partner to communities across our state as they recover from the damage left behind by wildfires.”
In their letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, Romney and Bennet requested that the GAO focus on a number of specific items, including:
- Approval processes under the program, including eligibility requirements that may limit entities such as water districts and ditch companies from qualifying for the program;
- Exigent project timelines and challenges, including opportunities to improve exigent projects in rural areas;
- Opportunities to expand eligible projects, such as weather monitoring and alert systems to warn of post-fire floods;
- Agency and stakeholder views on program improvements to better meet the goals and intent of EWP.
The full text of Romney and Bennet’s letter is available here.