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Drought, wildfire package passes House

The U.S. House passed a package Friday that authorizes millions of dollars in funding for drought-relief efforts on the Colorado River and wildfire recovery efforts.

One bill in the package would give the Department of Interior $500 million to relieve pressure on the Colorado River systems and prevent Lake Powell and Lake Mead from reaching critically low levels. All three have seen historically low water levels in recent years.

States and other entities could apply for grants to compensate those who cut back water usage, drill wells, line canals to prevent additional water seepage and increase the efficiency of hydropower production.

A second bill would require the Federal Emergency Management Act to update wildfire policies, which advocates say would increase funding for post-wildfire recovery like flooding and treat wildfires as seriously as other natural disasters.

The measures are sponsored by Arizona Reps. Greg Stanton and Raúl Grijalva. They are part of a larger package of bills that seek to prepare the U.S. for an increase in droughts and wildfires.

The package still needs to pass the Senate, which has often blocked Democratic-backed bills this session.