4:30am

Thu September 19, 2013
Business Report

Floodwaters Likely To Dampen Northern Colorado Economy

The massive flooding that began last week across much of the Front Range has largely subsided, but the cleanup and recovery are sure to take a long time.

Erin O'Toole talks with NCBR publisher Jeff Nuttall about the longer-term impact of Colorado's historic flooding on agriculture, oil & gas, and transportation for Morning Edition.

Beyond the immediate impact to Colorado’s tourism industry, infrastructure and agriculture, the historic deluge will be disastrous for many small businesses, according the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. They estimate one in four small businesses will fail, largely because they lack adequate insurance.

Not every industry will be affected negatively, says Northern Colorado Business Report publisher Jeff Nuttall.

"For disaster recovery firms, paving companies, carpet cleaners, hardware stores and the like – it will be a boon," says Nuttall. "For construction workers too, the recovery will mean jobs."

Nuttall adds that for most people, this natural disaster will mean months of detours as roads -- and in some cases, their companies -- are rebuilt.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday they will release $30 million in federal funding to help Colorado rebuild highways, bridges and transit systems.

That, combined with another $5 million in aid announced last week, will help the state begin critical repairs immediately. State transportation officials say the total cost to fix Colorado’s damaged infrastructure could exceed half a billion dollars.

Credit U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault/Released

Interview highlights:

What’s being done to ensure northern Colorado’s highways and bridges are repaired quickly?

"The Colorado Department of Transportation has said that it plans to focus on restoring routes to communities that currently have limited access. CDOT employees are going to be working with the National Guard and emergency contractors to remove debris, make necessary repairs and begin building temporary roads on U.S. 36 and Colorado 7 between Boulder and Estes Park as well as U.S. 34 between Loveland and Estes Park.

CDOT is issuing a request for proposals from the contracting community today and will select the teams by Friday with work beginning next week."

How is the flooding affecting agriculture?

"Farms near the Poudre and South Platte Rivers saw flooding and crop loss that will likely postpone the harvest of corn and sugar beets. We’ve been told that overall damage to agriculture isn’t expected to be significant, although a small number of farms in the floodplain have seen total losses."

Given the closures that affected Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and other tourist-dependent areas, what’s the outlook for the state’s tourism industry?

"For towns like Estes Park the impact is likely to be severe. It’s almost as if the fall foliage season is going to be big no-show. Estes Park tourism officials said this week that September has become their second-busiest month. Any closure is bound to be painful."

UPDATE 9/19/2013 7:30 am: According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. reported a 5,250 gallon spill Wednesday night from a damaged tank into the South Platte River near the town of Milliken. Crews have placed absorbent booms in the water to help mitigate the spill.