By Jared Polis
Lyons knows the destruction of flood waters as it was nearly washed away five years ago, but Lyons also knows community, resilience, and triumph.
When the skies opened up in September 2013, all hands were on deck during the floods, and I was honored to travel alongside the National Guard to help pick up survivors. The sense of community and acts of resilience only continued when the waters subsided.
I remember traveling to one of the hardest hit areas - Fourmile Canyon. There I met Stu and Sarah Jane, who were new parents
when the flood waters demolished their house. Shortly after receiving a reverse-911 call, the canyon gave way. The young family escaped to a firehouse up the canyon, and were offered refuge by a kind stranger. After two days, a National Guard helicopter flew in transporting all three to safety.
I promised Stu and Sarah Jane - and everyone in Lyons - that I would do everything I could to ensure the recovery had the weight of the federal government behind it.
It’s a promise I intend to keep, even five years later.
That’s why in early May when I heard that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wasn’t reimbursing Colorado for $40 million in flood recovery projects, I took action.
Sen. Bennet and I urged FEMA Administrator William Long and Regional Administrator Lee dePalo to reimburse Boulder County and rethink their bait-and-switch interpretation of eligible projects.
The flawed interpretation requires that all disaster recovery projects - regardless of type or location - follow specific, uniform codes in order to be eligible for reimbursement. Let’s be honest, Lyons is nothing like the communities on the east coast and communities in Boulder County need flexibility to rebuild in the most resilient, cost-effective way.
My advocacy hasn’t stopped there. I proudly worked alongside Rep. Ken Buck to partner on a bill that made improvements to Individual Assistance grants from FEMA, the Disaster Assistance Fairness and Accountability Act of 2015. I also worked with Lyons and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that the town could continue reconstruction during the nesting season of the beloved Golden Eagle near Meadow Park. If the permit had not been approved, construction would have been required to stop cease for 6 months a year, limiting an already short construction season.
In so many ways our recovery has come a long way. In May, the community saw the opening of McConnell Bridge over St. Vrain Creek, allowing residents greater ease to get to U.S. 36. Just to the north, U.S. 34 recently re-opened after nearly two years of construction.
But we know the recovery is not complete. Some residents are still displaced, and there is a lack of affordable housing now available.
I won’t forget my promise, and I will do everything possible ensure the federal government continues to keep its commitments to our communities and the long list of ongoing projects are completed. I am continuously amazed by and humbled to serve a town with the spirit of Lyons. It’s been a long haul, but the community truly defines resiliency.