Thu October 31, 2013
Colorado Floods

Colorado’s Chief Recovery Officer Determined To Rebuild Bigger And Better Post-Flood

The task of rebuilding following September’s historic flooding will take years to complete and one man - Jerre Stead, Colorado’s Chief Recovery Officer -  is overseeing the effort.

KUNC's Nathan Heffel speaks to Colorado's Chief Recovery Officer Jerre Stead on All Things Considered.

Hundreds of lost or damaged homes and miles upon miles of destroyed roadways will keep multiple state and federal agencies busy rebuilding, and the flood affected recovering. Days after the water receded, Governor John Hickenlooper tapped IHS Executive Chairman Jerre Stead as the state's Chief Recovery Officer.  

Stead toured damage across the state from the eastern plains south to Colorado Springs. He also received letters and calls from around the world offering help.

“And so, that helped us set priorities a lot,” said Stead. “We continue to this day, because of the federal shut down, we were waiting to get the Department of Agriculture help to identify the agriculture issues. We now have that  [help] and are about 2/3 through the process of evaluation on 1200 farms -32,000 plus acres, so we now have specific targets in place and know what we gotta get done and when we’re going to get it done.”

In a recent Denver Post article, Stead said there’s a gap between the amount of funding available to flood victims and what some are actually receiving. To fix that, Stead said there needs to be a continuing outpouring of help from the public.

Hundreds of miles of road were damaged in September's flooding. The Army National Guard is working with state and local officials to re-open roads by December 1st
Credit U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault/Released

“On average, if you look at a lot of statistics because of [Hurricane] Sandy and other places, the FEMA grants average about $6,100 per damage or lost home,” Stead said.  “And after that, there’s a lot of our folks from around the state who will need additional help.” 

Stead said fundraising both locally and statewide will go a long way in providing assistance to those who may not have had flood insurance.

With a race against winter, Stead acknowledges there’s a two part approach to rebuilding the state’s damaged roadways and bridges and achieving the Governor’s goal of 'building better for the future'.

“Conscious decisions were made that were temporary. We’ll go back and indeed make more permanent improvements to make it better,” said Stead. “That’s the trade off. Our number one goal of course was get it open, get it squared away where people can feel like they’re not stranded.”

Stead says he’ll remain the Chief Recovery Officer, a job which he’s doing without pay, as long as needed. His goal is to put something in place, “that’s permanent. That is better than we’ve ever done before, and...heaven forbid, have it in place so when the next disaster happens, it’ll be a tool to be used.”