Unaddressed Flood Damage Could Exacerbate Effects of Wildfires, Mudslide, Spring Flooding
U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and U.S. Representatives Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter, and Jared Polis pressed the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service today to quickly help Colorado prevent future disasters in areas already affected by historic flooding. The lawmakers pushed for immediate repairs to washed-out roads that, especially in the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests, may hinder firefighters' ability to combat small blazes before they grow into mega-fires. The lawmakers said that repairs on these public lands are essential to preserving the engines of Colorado's thriving outdoor economy and our high quality of life.
The 2013 flood caused an estimated $3 billion in damage across the state, including $44 million in damage to national forests.
"The flood destroyed or damaged 382 miles of road, 4 bridges, and 42 recreational facilities, and caused at least 250 debris slides. If not addressed, this damage to the National Forest could have short-term and long-term economic and safety impacts on the region," Bennet, Udall, DeGette, Perlmutter and Polis wrote in the letter. "For instance, the lack of road access could seriously jeopardize the ability of firefighters to quickly suppress wildfires and thus increases the risk of catastrophic fires for the fast-approaching 2014 wildfire season. In addition, other local land managers are rushing to stabilize landslides and remove debris from streams in advance of the spring runoff. If debris issues are not addressed, melting spring snowpack will back up in rivers and streams and cause a new round of flooding in communities that are still struggling to rebuild."
"Finally, these public lands are a vital part of our economy and way of life in Colorado," the lawmakers continued. "The flood wiped out fishing piers, family picnic areas, and trails that have attracted residents and tourists for generations, including many near or on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park and other iconic destinations. The closure of these facilities, and the related risk of future wildfire and flood, is hampering our state's economic recovery."
To read the full letter, click HERE.
Bennet, Udall, DeGette, Perlmutter and Polis worked to secure $450 million in mid-October 2013 for emergency road, bridge and highway repairs related to the devastating floods. They also secured the swift release of $62.8 million from the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program in December to further aid the ongoing flood recovery effort.