A bipartisan committee of 12 Colorado lawmakers will soon meet to examine the state’s response to September’s devastating Front Range floods.
Of concern is infrastructure. Washed out roads and bridges cut off access in some flood stricken communities, in many cases people were also cut off from telephone and Internet service.
“I do wonder whether we have the right telecommunications policies in place to ensure a quick recovery,” said state Senator Kevin Lundberg (R- Berthoud). He represents many of the towns affected by the floods, including Estes Park.
Lundberg says some people still don’t have good reliable phone service.
“Certain dollars are set aside to provide rural telephone service, are we set up to provide that in an emergency situation?” asked Lundberg.
The lack of broadband access in rural parts of Colorado has long been a focus at the statehouse. Lawmakers on the flood recovery study committee will also look at how well the state is rebuilding roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
“What about relief efforts for small business, tourism areas, families?” wondered Lundberg. “Are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing?”
Lundberg is serving on the flood disaster study committee, which is evenly split between members of both political parties. Senator Jeanne Nicholson (D- Blackhawk) says it’s too soon to say what lawmakers will want to change.
“Until we hear people’s reports to us about what worked, what’s working and what are some challenges they’re dealing with on the ground that they need some assistance with,” Nicholson said. “This was really a devastating disaster for a whole lot of people. I think there are some lessons to be learned from it. “
Nicholson says she wants to focus on helping people who may have lost everything or who are really struggling. She talked to one woman whose ceiling is caving in, but can’t get federal aid because it was caused by rain, and not the flooding.
“So many people didn’t have flood insurance that covers flood damage and we may want to work through how do we handle that aspect of it in a way that’s just different than how we’ve handled other kinds of disasters,” Nicholson said.
At one point Governor John Hickenlooper was considering a special legislative session to respond to the flooding but now says lawmakers can handle issues as they come up. The flood relief committee will hold its first meeting in early November.