House OK’s Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act

U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., speaks during the 2021 Safford Spring Festival preview event at Best Western Plus. - David Bell Photo/Gila Valley Central

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill that could help with Arizona’s water woes has passed the U.S. House.

The Wildfire Response and Drought Resiliency Act includes a number of provisions that directly address the ongoing drought, including allocation of $500 million for protection of reservoirs on the Colorado River, ensuring the reservoirs do not decline to unsafe levels.

The bill also calls for other water management actions, including water recycling and desalinization.

A provision that could help in the Gila Valley was introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., establishing a $10 million competitive grant program to remove non-native plants, including the salt cedar.

“There is no longer a wildfire ‘season’ in Arizona, with a mega-drought, long-overlooked and overgrown forests, and the compounding effects of climate change, deadly wildfires happen year-round,” O’Halleran said. “All across our beautiful state, these fires threaten Arizonans’ safety, property, businesses, watersheds, our treasured public lands, and our irreplaceable natural resources, and create devastating burn scars through which waters flow and flood homes and businesses. We are long-overdue a comprehensive legislative package to address this ever-growing problem. I was proud to vote in favor of our legislation today, and to see so many initiatives I have worked on included.”

The bill now awaits action by the Senate.