Spring floods declared local disaster, damage assessment continues

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DENVER -- Torrential rains, flooding and other severe weather across much of Colorado in May and June have triggered millions of dollars in federal disaster assistance, but this week the Federal Emergency Management Agency is back in the state assessing more damage.

As the supervisor for South Platte Park in Littleton, Skot Latona knew high water in May and June did a lot of damage to a three-year project to stabilize the river bank and channel the water, but until recently, he didn't know how extensive the damage was.

"We got all the restoration plantings in place about a couple of days, two or three days, before the high water started this spring and so all that restoration work got washed out," Latona said. "It should be dry land on either side of those rows of rock and all that debris got taken downstream."

FEMA is sending millions of dollars to Colorado after a federal disaster declaration in mid July, which will help replace infrastructure damaged during the May and June storms.

But state and federal officials are touring the South Platte River and other areas near the Denver metro area, which weren't all accessible weeks ago.

"This is a second look, to see if we've missed any damage," said James Raymond, with the Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. "Whether we can include additional counties and additional areas in that declaration that Colorado received in July."

The original disaster declaration covered infrastructure in 11 Colorado counties, which are largely northeast and south of the metro area. The teams are now touring sites in Boulder, Denver, Adams and Arapahoe counties.

Local officials say repairing the damage at South Platte Park alone will cost more than $500,000 and they'll soon learn if the state or feds will help foot the bill.

"We'll take a look at those damages and we'll try to estimate whether they were beyond the ability of this community to recover," Raymond said.

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