Hickenlooper announces Chief Recovery Officer, says 2K homes lost by flooding

DENVER — In a speech both defiant and urgent in tone, Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state is in a “race against winter” to fix the more than 200 miles of state highway that were damaged by last week’s flood.

“We are all affected by this,” Hickenlooper said during an evening news conference. “Today, while rescues are still underway, we move into the next phase of recovery.”

The state now estimates that 17,000 structures were lost including some 2,000 homes.

“We are about to embark on a rebuilding effort that is truly epic in scale,” Hickenlooper said.

Overseeing it all will be Jerre Stead, the executive chairman of Englewood based HIS.  Stead was the as CEO of IHS, a company that specializes in energy, economics, sustainability and supply chain management, until June 2013.

As Chief Recovery Officer, a new position, Stead will be in charge of working with local agencies in a race against time to rebuild roads and highways washed out by flood waters.

“This cannot, and should not, be legislatively decided or dictated from Denver,” Hickenlooper said perhaps mindful of the criticism he has received from northeastern counties in recent months that the state legislature ignored them during the last session. “Each local community has to come together and make these decisions in rapid order.”

CDOT has created a rapid response team that will decide where to put resources first. A high priority were roads essential for farmers to delivery crops for the fall harvest, Hickenlooper said.

CODOT has received $33 million in federal money to help begin repairs.

The Agricultural Department has also made money to help repair irrigation systems that were washed away.

“I hope a year from now we are going to be able to say we built 1,000 new homes with volunteers and community support,” Hickenlooper said. “I hope a year from now we will be able to say that Colorado was a national model for how we bounce back from this kind of disaster.”