WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning that many flood repair projects could be delayed because they are in an endangered mouse’s habitat.
The Preble’s meadow jumping mouse is listed as a threatened species, which means it and its habitat are protected by federal law. Its habitat lies along rivers and stream beds where flood repairs are underway.
The news upset Colorado State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents many of the flooded communities. He sent a letter to Colorado’s congressional delegation asking it to intervene saying the federal government has put a mouse ahead of Colorado families.
“We’re holding up the ability to redo safe drinking water, to rebuild sewage treatment facilities so we can keep sewage out of the rivers, trying to have a safe environment because of a mouse,” said Sonnenberg.
According to him, communities have to delay repairs after FEMA issued a warning that local governments could lose federal funding if they violate the Endangered Species Act.
The mouse is causing controversy with some Colorado scientists, saying it isn’t even endangered.
“This mouse has cost millions of dollars to Colorado taxpayers already. It threatens the livelihood of agriculture and now it’s threatening flood recovery efforts. This is absolutely incredible,” said United States Rep. Cory Gardner.
Gardner, whose district was hit hard by the floods, wrote a letter to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service asking for a waiver from the Endangered Species Act. Fish and Wildlife said that so far projects have only been delayed a couple days.
However, Gardner said flooded communities can’t afford any delay as they race to make repairs before the spring runoff.
“The fact that so many people were impacted, thousands of people lost their homes or had their homes damaged, and here we are having federal relief dollars held up by a mouse that may not even be endangered. It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Gardner.
Gardner said that if Fish and Wildlife doesn’t grant a waiver quickly he will draft legislation.
A Weld County commissioner said he asked FEMA two months ago about the mouse and was told it wouldn’t be a problem.
FEMA said that it is simply following federal law and that it has added staff to expedite the process and will pay for any mitigation necessary to accommodate the mouse habitat.
Colorado Floods: How To Help
The recent floods are impacting families and communities throughout Colorado, so CBS4 has compiled a list of ways you can support the local communities impacted by the floods.
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