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Money available for wildfire mitigation in La Plata County

Property owners eligible to receive up to 50% reimbursement
New grant funding will help wildfire mitigation and watershed protection for San Juan Basin area. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been given to the Durango Fire Protection District to aid in wildfire mitigation in the San Juan Basin, as well as the watershed for the Florida River.

The grant comes two years after the Colorado State Forest Action Plan of 2020 identified La Plata County and areas within the Florida River Wildfire Reduction Project area as high risk for wildfire.

The grant is the first opportunity to get the public involved in a free wildfire risk assessment that can translate into complete wildfire mitigation eligible for reimbursement.

The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation grant includes nearly $500,000 for private landowners to complete wildfire mitigation and receive up to 50% reimbursement.

Monitoring of WIIN’s data collection, which includes metals, mercury, aluminum and macrovertebrates, will help those in charge of the areas of essential mitigation to establish a baseline for further action. The established baseline data will then be used after a wildfire to inform which techniques are necessary to restore water quality.

The WIIN grant will also fund protection of the watershed for the Florida River. The watershed, beginning at Lemon Reservoir, provides agricultural water for residents throughout La Plata County and is the primary water source for subdivisions on Florida Road (County Road 240) and all residents and businesses in Durango.

The EPA aims to increase water monitoring programs, particularly those that work in watersheds. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment accepted a financial award from the EPA, reviewed local projects and selected award recipients.

The CDPHE signed an agreement with the EPA to administer the money by July 2026.

For more information, visit: bit.ly/3qpLMei.

molsen@durangoherald.com

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