Colorado senators tout key infrastructure bill provisions – The Journal
Access to drinking water, broadband improvements and forest fire mitigation among the amendments
As the final details of the long-awaited infrastructure package are worked out, U.S. Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have called for key amendments to help the state, including improving water infrastructure and expanding the broadband access.
The US Senate is expected to vote on the bipartisan plan on Saturday, but lawmakers faced new issues late Thursday night as several amendments remain to be debated. The legislation will need 60 votes, including at least 10 Republicans, to move forward in the House.
Bipartism was a key effort in creating the package, Bennet said in an interview Thursday with The Herald Durango. He hopes the collaboration in the aisle will continue as well.
“Sometimes the American people look at Congress and lose faith in the ability of parties to work together,” Bennet said. “What they see in this bill is a broad bipartisan commitment to do something that will benefit them in their communities, whether they are Democrats, Republicans or unaffiliated.”
Hickenlooper is no stranger to the need for bipartisan collaboration – he’s a member of the original group of senators that negotiated the bipartisan $ 1,000 billion bill.
“We need to fix our crumbling infrastructure and embrace our clean energy future,” he said in a press release. “This bipartisan bill shows the world that our democracy still works. It comes at a great time as we face droughts, wildfires, mudslides and aging infrastructure across Colorado and the country. “
Colorado has “serious infrastructure needs”, and the package will alleviate some of them, such as restoring land and cleaning up orphaned wells, Bennet said in an interview.
“Now we are going to have the resources to do it,” he said. “And that will create jobs in rural parts of the country. “
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates funds to Colorado in various sectors, including $ 3.7 billion for federal assistance programs allocated to highways and $ 225 million for the replacement and repair of bridges over the past five years. coming years.
The package is expected to provide $ 3.5 billion to the Indian health service to support improving sanitation facilities and expanding access to clean water in accordance with the Tribal Access to Clean Water Act which was introduced in July by Bennet and New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich.
According to data from the Indian Health Service, nearly half of Native American households do not have access to reliable water sources and safe drinking water.
“Clean water is a basic human right and it is the foundation of healthy communities,” Bennet said in an interview. “That is why Senator Heinrich and I introduced the Tribal Access to Clean Water Act to address this unacceptable disparity. “
The legislation is supported by the South Ute Indian tribe. Leaders from the Navajo Nation and the Southern Ute Tribe helped draft the legislation, Bennet said.
“Our country’s investment in infrastructure must at a minimum include the funding necessary to provide basic water service to Native Americans,” said Manuel Heart, president of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Ten Tribes Partnership. “The funding provided for in this bill is an essential part of federal fiduciary responsibility to sovereign nations and tribal communities and a step towards a more just and racially equitable nation. “
Other water infrastructure arrangements supported by Bennet and Hickenlooper include $ 50 million for Colorado River endangered species recovery and conservation programs, $ 1 billion for rural water improvement, and $ 300 million. Colorado Drought Contingency Plan, including $ 50 million for the Upper Basin.
Hickenlooper helped draft the legislation to allocate more than $ 60 billion in high-speed Internet access to Americans as well. A minimum of $ 100 million will be used to extend broadband coverage to 85,000 Colorado residents. About 20% of residents will be eligible for Connectivity Affordability, which will help low-income families afford Internet access.
After Colorado experienced its worst wildfire season last year, Colorado senators also pushed for wildfire prevention provisions in the package.
Bennet worked with Senator John Hoeven, RN.D., to include forest and grassland restoration in legislation, which is based on the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership Act that the two Senators previously introduced. The amendment was adopted on Wednesday evening.
The Joint Chiefs program, which was launched by the USDA in 2014, has supported 93 projects nationwide in wildlife habitat and land restoration, including two projects in Colorado. The provision also includes reducing the risk of forest fires and protecting the water supply on public and private lands.
“Our forests and prairies are as important to our economy as the Lincoln Tunnel or the Brooklyn Bridge are to New York, but they haven’t received enough investment over the years,” Bennet told the Senate Thursday. to support the passage of the amendment.
Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and graduated in 2021 from American University in Washington, DC