Eleven Colorado counties get disaster declaration after May rains

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal May 2015
Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal May 2015

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Ryan Maye Handy):

President Barack Obama issued a disaster declaration Thursday for 11 Colorado counties that were heavily damaged by more than a month of unprecedented rain this spring.

The declaration ensures that millions of dollars will reach the counties – including El Paso – but the funds are still several steps away from hitting county coffers, said Randy Welch, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which distributes the money. An initial damage assessment by FEMA determined if counties were eligible for the declaration, but another assessment must be done to identify how much each project will need, Welch said…

El Paso County had the highest cost of damages, at least $24 million, to include infrastructure damages in the county and cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, as well as Colorado Springs Utilities.

The presidential disaster declaration is the fourth for El Paso County in three years – since 2012 the county has had two wildfires and flooding, all of which were federally declared disasters.

The declaration opens the doors to millions in federal funding to help the 11 counties pay for repairs. But the FEMA money is not a hand-out, and comes with a match requirement from every entity that takes federal funding. FEMA will pay for 75 percent of a project’s costs, leaving the remaining 25 percent to be picked up by the state or others. During recent disasters, the state often split this 25 percent match with a county, each paying 12.5 percent.

The money is eligible to repair any damages incurred between May 4 and June 16, a period that brought severe storms, flooding, mudslides and tornadoes to the state. The other counties included in the declaration are Baca, Elbert, Fremont, Logan, Morgan, Pueblo, Saguache, Sedgwick, Washington, and Yuma.

The money, however, is only for public infrastructure and cannot be used to help private property or individual citizens.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

President Barack Obama Thursday issued a major disaster declaration for severe weather that occurred from April 16 through June 20 in 11 Colorado counties, including Pueblo.

Preliminary assessments showed nearly $20 million in damage in the affected counties, but the amount of assistance available could change.

Gov. John Hickenlooper requested the declaration last week, supported by U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, all Colorado Republicans.

The damage in Pueblo County was assessed at $685,000.

Other area counties were El Paso, $13.9 million; Fremont, $626,000; Baca, $140,000; and Saguache, $22,000. Other counties were Elbert, Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma.

Pueblo’s damage occurred mainly along Fountain Creek, including a washout of Overton Road and extensive damage within the city of Pueblo, as well as damage to roads in Beulah.

From The Denver Post (Anthony Cotton):

Federal funding is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe storms, tornadoes, flooding, landslides, and mudslides in the counties of Baca, Elbert, El Paso, Fremont, Logan, Morgan, Pueblo, Saguache, Sedgwick, Washington, and Yuma.

In requesting the funds, Colorado’s emergency management office said that since 1995, Colorado has had nine major disaster declarations and five emergency declarations. In addition, four declarations, including the Royal Gorge and Black Forest wildfires and the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires, remain open.

Of the $20 million, El Paso County, which had the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon fires, said its estimated damage from this spring’s weather was almost $14 million.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide, The White House said on Thursday.

More stormwater coverage here.

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