‘The problem is getting all this back online before the start of the growing season’ — Ron Carleton #COflood

New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call
New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

“The problem is getting all this back online before the start of the growing season,” deputy state agriculture commissioner Ron Carleton said of the irrigation network that was blown apart by the raging waters. “And there’s not a lot of time left.”

Federal agriculture agencies say they expect to award emergency aid to eligible Colorado applicants in a month or two, possibly longer.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency spokeswoman Isabel Benemelis said enough money should eventually be available for each of the 236 farmers and ranchers who have applied for the agency’s most popular vehicle for disaster aid, the Emergency Conservation Program…

Water flooded 18,033 acres of hay and alfalfa, 8,646 acres of corn and 500 acres of sugar beets. CSU estimated 100 percent of the beets, 29 percent to 40 percent of the corn and 14 percent to 19 percent of the alfalfa was ruined.

CSU estimated total crop losses ranging from $3.4 million to $5.5 million . The tally doesn’t include damage to fences, irrigation systems, farm buildings and machinery, and losses logged by small food-crop farmers…

the bill is huge for damage to irrigation ditches, dams and headgates. The system nourishes tens of thousands of acres of cropland that weren’t directly hit by the flood.

The state has estimated $62 million in damage to farming ditches.

If repairs aren’t completed by early March — and some surely won’t make the deadline — large swaths of land may go without water needed to make a crop, several state and local authorities said.

“Our biggest fear at this point is that there’s going to be plenty of water this spring, but are we going to be able to get it to the fields?” said Brian Werner, spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which serves 120 ditch companies in northeast Colorado.

Werner said most ditch companies are owned by groups of farmers who depend on them, and most of those partnerships have little or no money above their normally minimal operating costs.

“They’ve never had to take on this kind of situation,” he said.

Ken Bohl, superintendent of two ditch companies in Fort Morgan and Orchard, expected to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars to get his systems restored.

Now nearly 70 percent done with repairs, Bohl said he could hardly remember what aid his office manager had asked state and federal agencies for this fall. He said he needed to act quickly and couldn’t wait for government response.

Though the state is now offering some loans and grants to ditch companies, federal sources have not, unless the projects were linked to municipalities or other public shareholders.

“We’re the last on the totem pole to receive funds,” Bohl said, “if they have enough.”

From The Greeley Tribune:

To help flood-ravaged communities restore damaged or destroyed parks, trails and open spaces, Great Outdoors Colorado will provide up to $5 million in emergency grant funds.

Communities in the 11 counties declared federal disaster areas after the flooding in mid September will be eligible to apply for the special GOCO grants starting next week.

The grants, which are funded by GOCO’s portion of Colorado Lottery revenues, will be awarded in April.

“The state has done an excellent job of quickly repairing damaged roads and infrastructure and finding new housing for those who were displaced,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO executive director. “But these communities have told us they will not be made completely whole until their parks, trails and open spaces that people use daily or weekly are restored as well.”

She added, “Communities are particularly concerned because citizens are trying to access and use the recreation areas despite the damage and sometimes unsafe conditions.”

GOCO’s flood recovery initiative is designed to be flexible so as to fit communities’ various needs, such as matching Federal Emergency Management Agency funding or to pay for items FEMA cannot, said Jim Smith, GOCO board chairman. FEMA can only pay to replace what was lost without any modifications.

Grantees also can use funds to employ youth corps or use volunteers to perform repair work, Smith said.

“Repairing trails damaged in the floods is another important step to reconnecting communities,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “These trails link all of us to Colorado’s unbeatable natural beauty and help promote the kind of active, outdoor spirit that helps make our state great. We appreciate GOCO’s efforts to further help local communities recover and rebuild.”

Priority will be given to communities with the highest percentage of loss and those that have the least financial ability to match FEMA funding or make repairs on their own.

FEMA provides up to 75 percent while the state is giving 12.5 percent, leaving communities to raise the remaining 12.5 percent.

Because the funding will not be enough to meet all the needs, GOCO is looking for partners to help these communities. Outdoor companies, led by ActiveBoulder and the Outdoor Industry Association, and other corporate partners have already stepped up and raised $100,000 for the Fund to Restore Colorado’s Trails, Waterways and Parks to help communities.

Application review will begin Feb. 7 and the board will award grants April 3.

More information about the initiative and applications for GOCO grants are available at http://www.goco.org/flood.

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