September 27, 2019

Congressman Neguse Calls Out FEMA For Failing Larimer and Boulder Counties Following Colorado’s 2013 Flood

Washington D.C.—Today, Congressman Joe Neguse, who represents Colorado's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. Congress, took to the House floor to call out FEMA for failing to adequately help Larimer County and Boulder County communities recover and rebuild after the 2013 Colorado flood.  

“I rise today to call attention to a failure of government,” said Congressman Neguse on the House floor. “A failure of our government to issue a promised and required set of regulatory guidance in a timely matter. A failure of our government to prepare the American people for natural disasters and to provide relief to suffering communities. ” 

“Six years ago, [Colorado] experienced historic flooding, most severely impacting Boulder County and Larimer County, both counties in my district. In September of 2013, we were inundated with heavy rainfall, with up to 15 inches of rainfall in one week in some areas. The result was devastating flooding across the Front Range of Colorado. The storms took the lives of ten Coloradans, and caused nearly $4 billion in damage across 21 counties our the state—the most expensive disaster in Colorado’s history.”

Today, more than 6 years after the 2013 flood, many of these Colorado communities still have not been able to fully recover. Rebuilding from a disaster this severe is a lengthy and expensive process. However, it is made more difficult by grant regulations set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) which require cities and counties to rebuild infrastructure in the exact same way it had been built before the disaster in order to qualify for reimbursement.

“If these counties were to rebuild the roads and bridges that were destroyed in the flood in the same way they were originally built, it puts these same communities at risk of future disasters once again,” continued Congressman Neguse on the House floor. “There is a lack of clarity and consistency for these cities and counties in FEMA’s current determination of reimbursements. Many projects in my district have been deemed “not cost effective” because the county made an adjustment and wanted to improve their infrastructure, not just rebuild the same road right next to a river that would be washed out again with the next flood.”

A year ago, Congress acted to require FEMA to issue new guidance based on the “latest consensus-based codes and standards,” within sixty days of the law being enacted. Many communities are still waiting for this guidance nearly a year later. 

“This endangers not just the financial security of counties in Colorado who have millions of dollars at risk based on the pending project determinations, but it demonstrates a fundamental failure by the United States government,” said Congressman Neguse. “There is simply no excuse for the extensive delay FEMA has taken in issuing this interim guidance.”

“It should not have to take six years for communities to fully rebuild their infrastructure after a flood, and it should certainly not be caused by delays from red tape at the federal level. I urge FEMA to take action to issue this guidance in the last few days of September as they have promised. My constituents are waiting, the counties are waiting, the country is waiting.”

In July, Congressman Neguse spoke with officials at FEMA to urge prioritization of this issue. 

In March, Congressman Neguse, along with Representative Ken Buck, Senator Michael Bennet and Senator Cory Gardner also sent a joint letter to FEMA expressing concern for the affected communities and encouraging the agency to act quickly.

View video of the Congressman remarks on the House floor here.