The State Legislature Disaster Study Committee gets a first hand look at ongoing problems with recovery #COflood

St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call
St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

From The Greeley Tribune (Dave Young):

On Nov. 18 and 19, the state legislature’s Flood Disaster Study Committee visited Longmont, Lyons, Estes Park, Glen Haven, Milliken and Evans, and held public hearings in Longmont, Estes Park and Evans. The fully bipartisan 12-member committee, which I chair with Sen. Scott Renfroe, is gathering information to decide what the Legislature should do to improve the state’s response to the 2013 flood disaster and to better prepare for the floods that, inevitably, will strike our state again.

I and the other representatives and senators on the committee all come from places that experienced some degree of flood damage, and naturally we’ve been focusing mostly on our own constituents. This field trip gave us a broader perspective and reminded us that the flood recovery, like all the other big challenges facing our state, is best confronted if we act together.

In every town, people told us that Gov. John Hickenlooper and his administration have done a fantastic job of responding to the disaster. The last stretch of highway wrecked by the floods reopened Tuesday. My hat’s off to the governor and to the thousands of state, county and local workers and contractors who made the impossible happen. And other state agencies have been on the ball helping flood victims take care of the basic necessities and navigate the red tape of insurance claims and applications for assistance.

But make no mistake: difficult problems remain if we are to avoid what everyone’s calling “the disaster after the disaster.” For example:

» Businesses. Businesses need employees and customers, and both can be hard to find in an area with a lot of displaced residents.

» Irrigation ditches. The floods breached ditches and canals throughout the flood zone. Those ditches fill our reservoirs and water our farmers’ fields. If the ditches aren’t repaired soon, agriculture will suffer badly and entire communities may get thirsty.

» Water and soil contamination. Leaks from oil and gas storage tanks are a concern, especially here in Weld County. Sewage contamination of soil and water is another problem.

» Other infrastructure. Roads and bridges weren’t the only structures damaged by the flood. Other infrastructure — notably wastewater treatment plants — need repairs.

There are other pitfalls to avoid. But I think we’ll come out of this better and stronger than before if we pull together and continue to show the bend-not-break Colorado spirit we’ve seen so far.

For example: Glen Haven, in the mountains west of Loveland, was nearly wiped out. You could understand if folks there had said, “This was great while it lasted,” and then found somewhere else to live. But when the committee rolled into town, one of the first people we saw was Tony Fink. I knew Tony from his days as a doctor in Greeley. Now he’s retired and living in Glen Haven, and we saw him scooting around town on his ATV, coordinating, helping people, making sure they were OK. Tony is basically the emergency manager of Glen Haven now. There is no quit in Tony Fink. And there are people like him in every community we visited. I will not let these people down.

State Rep. Dave Young represents House District 50, which includes central Greeley, Evans and Garden City.

From The Greeley Tribune:

Nearly $12 million is being released to help restore watersheds damaged by September floods.

The $11.7 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection program will help cover 75 percent of the costs for 26 emergency projects, such as the stabilization of riverbanks and rechanneling of rivers and streams that were redirected following the historic floods that swept through Colorado’s Front Range.

The release of funds was welcomed by Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall. Bennet and Udall led the Colorado Congressional delegation in requesting the NRCS — along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to prioritize these projects.

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