The Mountain Times

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Governor sends top aides to help flood-ravaged Colorado

AOT team to use Irene experience to advise in flooding aftermath

MONTPELIER - At the request of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, three of the Vermont Agency of Transportation's top staff are heading to Colorado on Monday to help guide that state's road and bridge repair in the aftermath of last week's deadly flooding. Gov. Hickenlooper said his state is on the fast track to rebuild infrastructure lost in the floods, and asked for Vermont to share its expertise learned in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene to help Colorado recover better and more quickly.

Gov. Shumlin contacted Vermont AOT Secretary Brian Searles and Deputy Secretary Sue Minter, who oversaw the immediate and longer term recovery work following Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28, 2011. The Vermont effort focused on rebuilding roads, bridges and culverts using techniques to ensure the new infrastructure was located outside flood zones or reconstructed in a flood-resistant manner.

"Vermont learned tough lessons from Irene, including how to rebuild quickly and in ways that make it less likely future flooding will create such catastrophe," Gov. Shumlin said. "Now Colorado has the same opportunity, unfortunately stemming from tragedy, to reduce the likelihood that future flooding will lead to terrible destruction and loss of life."

Minter, Chief Engineer Richard Tetreault, and Scott Rogers, Director of Operations, are flying to Colorado on Monday morning, and plan to stay through Thursday evening to help with organization, strategy and communication. The state of Colorado is covering the cost of the trip.

Searles said the Colorado flooding is similar to the impact of Irene, and like Vermont's tropical storm, much damage is located in mountain areas. Searles said the area affected is about the same size or larger than Irene's footprint on Vermont.
"We are sending our best to help Colorado DOT get organized for what will be a monumental task," said Searles. "The similarities to Irene make our experience valuable to them and we are going without hesitation."
"We are honored to be able to assist another state in the face of disaster, and share the lessons we learned in our response and recovery from Irene," said Minter, who took a leave from AOT last year to head the temporary Irene Recovery Office. "Many states came to our aide following Irene and I am happy we can pay it forward now."
More than 14 inches of rain fell in Colorado last week, hitting historic flood levels. Weather officials are warning that more rainfall is forecast. Latest reports indicate that five people have died, and many are listed as missing.