By Jared Polis
Lyons knows how destructive flood waters can be, but Lyons also knows community, resilience, and triumph.
Five years ago, 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 are continuing to collaborate with Boulder County on its appeal to FEMA, doing everything possible to urge FEMA Administrator William Long to reimburse the county and rethink its 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 to be eligible for reimbursement. Let’s be honest, Lyons is nothing like the communities on the east coast. 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, R-Colo., 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 for 6 months a year, limiting an already short construction season.
Our recovery has come a long way in so many ways. In May, the community saw the opening of McConnell Bridge over St. Vrain Creek, allowing residents easier access to U.S. 36. Just to the north, U.S. 34 recently re-opened after nearly two years of construction.
But the recovery is not complete. Some residents are still displaced, and there is a lack of available affordable housing.
I won’t forget my promise, and I will do everything possible to 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.