Our state has faced flood disaster before. Leaders in 1965 solved their problem expeditiously.
- A special session raised taxes – for a 13-month period – to pay for highway restoration projects.
- Local projects shared in the revenues.
- They suggested legislation to handle (and mitigate) future disasters.
- They considered private sector needs in addition to state and local government projects.
Names that still echo in today’s Colorado abound in that disaster response, leaders worthy of emulation. Reading their report is a helpful lesson in legislative restraint.
One thing is clear. Colorado cannot dawdle. What to do is obvious.
Our legislature appropriated a billion dollar reserve to education without requiring outcome improvements in our state’s schools. That money should be reappropriated in special session to disaster response.
If those dollars are not adequate, our state constitution’s TABOR section authorizes “emergency taxes” that are passed by 2/3rds of the General Assembly and subsequently approved by Colorado voters. Such taxes, if truly needed, should be neither permanent nor aimed at extraneous, ancillary porkbarrel spending.
One specific Colorado problem jumps out of the 1965 report: the Narrows on the Big Thompson just west of Loveland – the route of US 34.
Three flood disasters in the same location (’65, ’76, ’13) in fifty years prove it’s time to quit half measures for the Narrows.
The highway must be moved up and out of the canyon. Federal highway rebuilding money should made available to move the road out of the canyon. Instead, build a flood control dam in the Narrows to protect Greeley and Northeast Colorado. Colorado must find the money to mitigate future flooding.