Federal Disaster Aid for Colorado Flooding Tops $245 Million #COflood

Surfing Boulder Creek September 2013 via @lauras
Surfing Boulder Creek September 2013 via @lauras

Here’s the release from FEMA:

Since heavy rains brought flooding in September 2013, Colorado survivors have received more than $245 million in federal recovery assistance.

More than $214 million has come from disaster grants, flood insurance payments and low-interest disaster loans. More than $31 million has been obligated under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance program to repair and rebuild critical infrastructure and restore vital services.

To date:

  • FEMA has granted $54.5 million for housing assistance in 11 designated counties and more than $4.6 million in other needs assistance, such as disaster-related medical expenses or personal property loss. Flood survivors have also received disaster unemployment assistance and disaster legal services.
  • FEMA has obligated $31.3 million to publicly owned entities and certain nonprofits in 18 designated counties. Through its Public Assistance cost-share program, FEMA reimburses 75 percent for eligible, disaster-related costs for debris removal, emergency measures and permanent work to repair and replace disaster-damaged public facilities. The remaining 25 percent nonfederal share comes from state and local sources. The state manages the grants for all projects.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved $96 million in federal disaster loans to Colorado homeowners, renters, businesses and private nonprofit organizations that sustained damage from the severe storms and flooding.
  • The National Flood Insurance Program has approved $59.3 million to settle 1,973 claims.
  • FEMA is providing manufactured housing units for 44 households who have no other suitable housing available.
  • The January 2014 Colorado Basin Outlook report is hot off the presses from the NRCS

    Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt:


    Compared to the last couple of years, the 2014 water year is off to a great start. The state saw above normal snow accumulation during October and November and into early December. The beneficial moisture dried up a bit in the latter part of December, especially in the south and southwest portion of the state, but the early season snow was enough to keep snowpack totals near to above normal across the state as of January 1. Statewide reservoir storage has also improved since the last water year, thanks mostly to the extreme precipitation events some areas of the state saw in September. It is still early in the season and anything can happen, but if weather patterns persist, this could be a good year for water supply and recreation in Colorado.


    All major basins in Colorado are reporting snowpack totals to be at near to above normal levels as of January 1. The state benefited from multiple early season snow storms in October and November. Early December also boasted decent additions to the snowpack totals, while the last few weeks in December saw modified weather patterns. The northern basins continued to receive snow, but at more normal accumulation rates while in contrast, conditions in the southern part of the state were very dry. Statewide the snowpack is at 103 percent of median; January 1 snowpack readings in 2012 and 2013 were just 71 and 70 percent of median, respectively. There is currently not much variability in snowpack totals between the major basins in Colorado. This will likely change if we continue to see drier conditions in the south while the northern basins continue to accumulate snow. The highest snowpack readings in the state are in the combined Yampa, White and North Platte basins at 111 percent of median. The lowest reading statewide was 99 percent of median for both the South Platte and the Upper Rio Grande basins.


    Precipitation received in the mountains during the first few months of this water year has really demonstrated how weather patterns affect the regions of our state differently. During October, precipitation was well above normal for the northern basins (Gunnison, Colorado, South Platte & Yampa, White, & North Platte), while the southern basins (Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande, and San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, & San Juan) all recorded below normal totals. The reverse was true for November, with the southern basins seeing well above normal totals and the northern basins coming in below normal. In December all basins received below normal precipitation amounts with the southern basins seeing totals much lower than the northern basins. Statewide monthly precipitation totals measured at SNOTEL sites were 112 percent of average for October, 98 percent of average for November, and 80 percent of average in December. Between basins, percentages for the month of December ranged from 54 percent of average in the Arkansas basin to 93 percent of average for the Yampa, White & North Platte basins. Year to date precipitation is holding at 96 percent of average statewide, as a result of the wet conditions observed during October and November. So far this water year the Arkansas basin has received the lowest amount of precipitation, as a percent of average; the basin is reporting 87 percent of average for the year as of January 1. The Yampa, White and North Platte basins came in with the highest totals, as a percent of average, on January 1, at 107 percent of average. All in all this is a much better start than last year. Statewide year to date totals are 141 percent of last year’s totals at this same time.

    Fish Habitat Improved in South Boulder Creek

    South Boulder Creek near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel via Jason Lee Davis
    South Boulder Creek near the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel via Jason Lee Davis

    Here’s the release from the US Forest Service (Maribeth Pecotte):

    More than a mile of fish habitat along South Boulder Creek has been improved, thanks to a partnership between the Boulder Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland (ARP), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Denver Water, Boulder Flycasters (Trout Unlimited) and Union Pacific Railroad. The 1.5-mile stretch of the creek west of Rollinsville, Colo., will see enhanced in-stream habitats, allowing trout to thrive.

    “”Trout biomass in Upper South Boulder Creek averages 60 lbs/acre, drastically lower than the abundance of trout within most front range streams such as the Poudre, Big Thompson, and St. Vrain Rivers,” said Ben Swigle, CPW aquatic biologist. “This project focused on improving in-stream habitats at all flows, which will allow a greater number of trout to inhabit the restored sections and support better natural reproduction.Thanks to this partnership, the fisheries and anglers of tomorrow will reap the benefits of our actions today.”

    The portion of South Boulder Creek that has been improved lies between Rollinsville and the East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel. This stream picks up water from the West Slope and is carried through the Moffat Tunnel. The parties involved had long felt that significant habitat improvements could be made to benefit the fishery. In 2001, Denver Water, which operates the Moffat Tunnel, agreed to financially support habitat mitigation projects downstream of the tunnel and fund an additional $125,000 for fish habitat improvement upstream.

    “Denver Water is committed to doing our part to help protect and enhance the natural environment,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “We are happy to be a part of this collaborative effort to enhance the river for the benefit of the fish.”
    Despite the floods of September 2013, the project moved forward this fall, with habitat structures and channel construction compete in early November 2013. As a result, CPW and Forest Service biologists expect to see more fish using the constructed habitat next year and larger fish in the future.

    “This was an outstanding project that exemplifies how much more can be achieved when forces join together,” said Boulder District Ranger Sylvia Clark. “Enhancements to fish habitat in South Boulder Creek could not have been done by any of us alone. We’d like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to our partners, and we look forward to future opportunities for working together.”

    The final phases of the project will be complete in spring 2014. The contractor will complete construction of the boardwalk for angler access off of the South Boulder Creek Trail. Disturbed sites will be revegetated with native plants with the help of Boulder Flycasters’ volunteers and staff from CPW and the USFS.


    This collaborative effort was the brainchild of Swigle, who worked with the ARP to find a project that would offer the greatest public benefit. The USFS initiated analysis for the project in 2012, and the decision memo was signed in March 2013.

    The Boulder Flycasters applied for a CPW Fishing is Fun grant and obtained $80,000 for the project. The group also contributed an additional $4,000 and volunteer support.

    The Boulder Flycasters, CPW, Denver Water and the USFS came together to select a contractor to design and construct the habitat features in South Boulder Creek and the boardwalk for angler access just west of the Moffat Tunnel.

    Union Pacific Railroad allowed the use of a portion of their easement near the Moffat Tunnel for staging materials and equipment. Through close coordination, they also allowed heavy equipment to cross over the railroad tracks to access the creek.

    “Farmers and ranchers…adapt’ — John Salazar

    Statewide snow water equivalent January 13, 2014 via the NRCS
    Statewide snow water equivalent January 13, 2014 via the NRCS

    Here’s a guest column written by John Salazar that’s running in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

    Colorado agriculture faced many weather challenges in 2013. But our state’s farmers and ranchers are a resilient bunch. They understand that weather can be unpredictable, and that conditions can drastically change from week to week. Yet, they do the job they love and believe they are meant to do. Their determination in the face of adversity not only puts food on our tables, but results in economic opportunities for our state as well.

    For example, in 2013, agricultural exports will likely reach close to $2 billion, doubling the $1 billion in exports recorded in 2009. More and more of Colorado’s agricultural products are finding profitable markets in over 110 countries across the globe. And while net farm income will fall below what had been projected for the year, it will still be – at $1.58 billion – the third highest in our state’s history.

    Already, we are seeing beneficial snows falling in the mountains, fueling optimism that this will be a good snow pack year. Producers are looking towards 2014 with high hopes and expectations about the weather and growing conditions. Farmers and ranchers may not always like the weather forecast, but they adapt and keep on doing what they do best – producing the food, fuel and fiber important to our state’s economy.

    Wild and scenic designation for the Dolores River?

    Dolores River near Bedrock
    Dolores River near Bedrock

    From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    New management plans by the BLM and Forest Service upgrade the status of two native fish, and list new sections of the river as “preliminarily suitable” for a Wild and Scenic designation.

    Roy Smith, a BLM water specialist, explained that the suitability status for the Lower Dolores from the dam to Bedrock has been in place since a 1976, and the special status was reaffirmed in a recently released public lands management plan.

    “It qualifies because below the dam, the lower Dolores is a free-flowing stream that has outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs),” he said. “A common misconception is that suitability means we can wave a wand and make it Wild and Scenic, but that is not true. That takes congressional action.”

    The 1976 suitability study noted that the Dolores is compatible with a Wild and Scenic designation, and “McPhee dam will enhance and complement such designation.”

    ORVs are obscure and sometimes controversial assessments that identify river-related natural values. They are an indication that a river could qualify as a Wild and Scenic River in the future. In the meantime, their natural values are protected in management plans.

    In their recent management plan, the BLM and Forest Service upped the ante, adding the bluehead and flannelmouth suckers to ORV standard list, which already includes the bonytail chub.

    The Colorado Water Conservation board also believes native fish on the river deserve additional help. They propose to issue a new in-stream flow requirement for a 34-mile section of the river from the confluence with the San Miguel River to the Gateway community.

    Ted Kowalski, a CWCB water resource specialist, explained that the new instream flow is proposed to improve habitat conditions for native fish.

    “In-stream flows are designed to protect the natural hydrographs on the river, and we feel they are better than top-down river management from the federal side,” Kowalski said. “The proposed instream flows on that section of the Dolores are timed to accommodate spawning needs for native fish.”

    Required peak flows reach 900 cfs during spring runoff, and then taper off. Most of the water would be provided by the San Miguel River, an upstream tributary…

    The Dolores Water Conservation Board and the Southwestern Water Conservation board objected to the changes, fearing the move could force more water to be released downstream. They have filed appeals and protests to stop them.

    Even the preliminary Wild and Scenic status on the Dolores is strongly opposed by McPhee Reservoir operators because if officially designated, Wild and Scenic rivers come with a federally reserved water right, which would also force more water to be released from the dam.

    Jeff Kane, an attorney representing SWCD, said adding two native fish as ORVs was unexpected and unfair to a local collaborative process working to identify and protect native fish needs…

    Accusations that federal agencies and the CWCB hijacked a 10-year-long, grass-roots effort to protect the Dolores were expressed at the meeting, which was attended by 80 local and regional officials…

    A diverse stakeholder group, the Dolores River Working Group, is proposing to make the Lower Dolores River into a National Conservation Area through future legislation. As part of the deal, suitability status for Wild and Scenic on the Lower Dolores River would be dropped.

    “It is still worthwhile to get our proposal out there,” said Amber Kelley, Dolores River coordinator for the San Juan Citizen’s Alliance. “We should continue to move forward in our collaborative effort despite the concerns about the BLM changes.”

    More Dolores River Watershed coverage here and here.

    Climate change — show them the facts