Our View: Time to help our Colorado neighbors


Steamboat Today editorial board — June to December 2013

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • David Baldinger Jr., community representative
  • Lisa Brown, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The world’s most recent natural disaster hit close to home as historic flooding ravaged roads, bridges, residential neighborhoods, ranches and businesses in 17 counties surrounding Boulder and the Denver area. The death toll from the floods now stands at 10, thousands are displaced from their homes and property damage estimates have reached $2 billion. The state also is responding to reports of oil spills in the flood-hit areas. At last count, inspectors and environmental protection specialists were investigating at least 10 oil spills that have released almost 14,000 gallons of petroleum products.

But as the flood waters recede and news coverage begins to fade, people easily can forget about the flood recovery efforts just beginning. As with any national disaster, there’s an initial outpouring of emergency aid, but when the national news crews turn their attention to the next big story, sometimes help for sustained recovery slows down.

According to Roger Sandberg, the former Haiti country director for Medair, a Swiss-based emergency relief and rehabilitation humanitarian aid organization, there are three phases to effective disaster response. The first is relief, the second is rehabilitation and the third is development. This caliber of response, which is outlined in the book “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton, begins with immediate emergency response but doesn’t end there. It is followed by long-term investments of time and money to restore and improve a community beyond its predisaster level.

In the case of the Colorado floods, the biggest hurdles lie ahead and long-term investments in recovery, along the lines outlined in Sandberg’s approach, will be vital. There’s no quick fix. In fact, the task of recovery facing the state of Colorado is huge.

Infrastructure needs alone are monumental. The latest state damage assessment revealed there are more than 200 miles of state highways and 50 bridges to rebuild before displaced residents can return to their homes — a massive project that will cost millions of dollars and take months, if not years, to complete.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today urges Routt County residents to seek ways to assist with flood recovery efforts now and in the months to come. Currently, one of the best ways to help flood victims throughout the hardest hit areas is to donate money to the Foothills, Weld County or Larimer County United Way organizations. Each group has established flood relief funds to support long-term recovery efforts like transitional housing and health needs for their area residents.

Another organization offering assistance for long-term flood recovery is Help Colorado Now, www.helpcoloradonow.org. This effort is a partnership between the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and Colorado-based nonprofit organizations.

Another less publicized aspect of flood recovery involves agriculture and livestock. The Colorado Farm Bureau has stepped forward to marshal assistance for farmers and ranchers hit hard by the flooding. Anyone wanting to support this effort can send donations to the Colorado Farm Bureau Foundation, which has established a disaster fund. For more information, visit www.coloradofarmbureau.com/disasterfund.

We also are learning of local groups and organizations that are looking for hands-on ways to help with the Colorado flood recovery effort. The Steamboat Institute sponsored a supplies drive this past week, which resulted in a truckload of items being delivered and distributed to churches on the Front Range. As more flood recovery efforts are planned in the coming months, let the Steamboat Pilot & Today, this area’s prime news source, serve as a clearinghouse for information about these local events. Send us information about your flood recovery assistance projects, and we’ll help spread the word online and in our print edition.

Our Colorado neighbors need Routt County’s help, and that assistance needs to be sustained over the long term.


Stuart Orzach 3 years, 8 months ago

The real first phase of disaster relief is prevention. Routt County residents might want to take a lesson from this situation and pay attention to our own "development" before we too become a checkerboard of oil and gas wells and related infrastructure.

The Big Lie is that it has anything to do with energy independence, energy security, or a bridge to a sustainable energy future. The truth is that the Federal government is furiously developing the infrastructure to export our resources to markets where it commands a higher price. Three LNG (liquid natural gas) export facilities have already been approved and 14 more have been formally proposed.

Because the Niobrara Shale under our feet does not frack well with water, Routt County can look forward to being a laboratory for increasingly exotic well stimulation techniques. We've already seen a well fracked with gelled butane. If you've never heard of Acid Matrix Stimulation, you might want to take a moment at halftime and google it. And don't expect Governor Hickenlooper to pull another PR stunt by drinking a glass of hydroflouric acid laced fracking fluid.

Disasters don't just happen. Societies, engaged in short term thinking for decades, create the circumstances that make disasters predictable and inevitable.

Between the increasing wealth gap and the dependence on exporting natural resources in exchange for dubious, and short term, economic "benefits", we are fast becoming the classic Third World country. The current generation, coming of age, can expect the rest of their lives to be one continuous disaster relief effort.


mark hartless 3 years, 8 months ago

We are becomming a Third World Country NOT because of energy development. A nation's energy consumption directly correlates to it's standard of living. The main reason we are headed towards Banana Republic status is because of our governments corruption.

Our development, be it roads, bridges, power plants or oil production, is done to higher specifications than most anywhere else on earth.

The increasing "wealth gap" is due, in no small part, to the increasingly incestious relationship between big business and big government. This is exacerbated by an electorate that hasn't the brains to comprehend that there are more places for crooks to hide inside a big government than inside a small one.

The current generation will indeed live in a "disaster relief effort" largely of their own and the former generation's making, but it is NOT development, energy production or commerce. The disaster relief effort has, in fact, become their new religion. It is called Environmentalism. Together with it's little brother Egalatarianism they will enslave generatioins in taxes, debt, regulations, freedom killing restrictions on property use, and internal guilt for simply being a human on this planet.

The people on the Front Range need relief which will come in trucks that burn diesel fuel. The products that will re-build their lives will be mined and harvested from the earth; manufactured in large plants using huge ammounts of energy.

The small amounts of oil which spilled is but a wee small part of the disaster. This was a NATURAL disaster and anyone who tries to make this into a justifyable attack on the very things which will restore these folks' lives is missing an opportunity to meet immediate needs.


John Fielding 3 years, 8 months ago

From a geologists perspective it was entirely predictable that a flood of this magnitude would happen someday. The evidence of the extent and volume of the historic predecessors is beneath our feet, easily readable to those who study such things.

But that does not mean we should not make our homes there, only that we accept the risk and hopefully be prepared to respond if it happens in our tenure. It is thus in many areas of our country, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes, debris flows, earthquakes, and the like are part of the deal. Our own county suffered substantial damage from the natural disaster of an extreme cold spell last winter, in an area that deals with severe cold regularly. Most important is foresight and the early warning that often reduces the loss of life to a tiny fraction of what it would have been. Our material possessions can be restored.

As far as the oil spills, it is a relief that they were so small by percent of volume to the flood, the dilution probably reduced it to virtually harmless levels. I am relieved that no nuclear plant or toxic waste facility was impacted. Those extremely dangerous materials must be kept in locations that we can be certain will be safe from routine natural disasters. As we saw in the tragedy in Japan, just building it strong is not enough, compound effects are sometimes as unpredictable as a meteorite impact.

Sometimes human activity seems to resemble an anthill. When a cow steps on it it is a real mess for a little while, fatal to many ants, but shortly resumes its characteristic form, proof that the society has recovered. I like to think we are at least as resilient. I urge everyone to contribute as they are able to this recovery effort.


Fred Duckels 3 years, 8 months ago

Stuart, We are beyond the point of return. You seem to have the feeling that the market forces are outdated and must be abandoned. Where has this ever worked throughout history? You are reduced to naysayer which if anything ever happens you can claim visionary status. Let's see ideas that have some skin in the game.


John Fielding 3 years, 8 months ago

Stuart, you referred to the Federal government developing export infrastructure. I wonder if tax money is being spent for anything other than the regulatory expenses, and how much of that is recouped in fees from the corporations making the applications for approvals. As far as I know all the actual investment in development is not done by the government, unless you count some tax breaks typically offered to many industries.

Regarding that export, it is true the demand for US product is increasing and the prices are favorable to the exporters. The result of course is higher prices at home. In the case of product obtained privately I think we have little right to protest. However, if the product is obtained from public lands it seems appropriate to create an incentive to help it benefit the people who own the resource. Perhaps a reduction in tax for product that is kept in the domestic market would work. Perhaps some incentive could induce private producers to sell more at home too. But eventually, if the rest of the world will offer more, that demand will be met somehow.


John Fielding 3 years, 8 months ago

A note regarding the effects of regulation reduction :

Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake "In order to get L.A.’s transportation system up and running again as quickly as possible, Governor Pete Wilson immediately declared a state of emergency and suspended a variety of regulations to expedite the rebuilding process. Governor Wilson explained his actions to a U.S. Senate committee soon after Hurricane Katrina:

We were rebuilding the roads and bridges within 24 hours of the earthquake. I issued an executive order suspending all statutes and regulations related to state contracting.…My goal was to reopen I-10 within 6 months, and every other road within a year. Each contract included an incentive if the work was late, we charged a fine and if it was completed early, we paid a bonus and the motorists in Los Angeles were happy each time we did. We waived the requirements for lengthy environmental and permitting reviews for strict replacement work cutting 18 to 24 months off the construction schedule.

I cut the rules impeding recovery in other areas as well: Suspended several trucking rules…suspended overtime rules to give employers more flexibility in setting work schedules and reducing congestion during normal commute hours… expedited permitting of reconstruction projects by waiving many of the procedural requirements, and putting staff from all state and local permitting agencies into one building".

Interstate 10 was reopened in 66 days.

I hope we in Colorado are emulating that example. Perhaps it can be extended to non-disaster related infrastructure replacements and save much time and tax money.


Stuart Orzach 3 years, 8 months ago

Good points were raised by all, but I would like to clarify some things.

John- You're right. I made a poor choice of words. The government doesn't "develop" LNG export facilities, but it approves them and issues the permit. I don't know who builds and pays for the facilities, but in any case, it would not alter my point. To reiterate, The Big Lie is that O&G development is about energy security, energy independence, or a bridge to a sustainable future. It is not. And, it is precisely because of something that you stated in your post. You said, "In the case of product obtained privately, I think we have little right to protest." But I reserve the right to protest the fact that these private companies are externalizing some of their costs, operating with an unacceptable level of secrecy regarding what they are pumping into the Earth, and are exempted from portions of the Clean Water Act.

Fred- You said that I seem to have the feeling that market forces are outdated and must be abandoned. This is not true. I have the utmost respect for market forces, business principles, and ethical business practices. To go into detail here would diverge too far from the the subject of the newspaper's editorial, but you are always welcome to contact me personally if you ever want to discuss anything.

Mark- Let me reiterate my point about the U.S. becoming a Third World country. It is not because of energy consumption or energy development. It is because of energy export . Many poor countries are resource rich. Economists call it the "Resource Curse". Resources are extracted and exported, yet the vast majority of citizens don't benefit.

The figures for spills of petroleum products reported above are based on initial reports. We don't yet know what the full extent of the problem will be. The COGCC really does have about 17 inspectors for over 50,000 wells in Colorado, and is almost entirely dependent on self-reporting by operators. Let's hope that more toxic substances, including nuclear waste, remain secure.

And finally, John, I enjoyed your anthill analogy. I think we need a cattle guard analog.


Stuart Orzach 3 years, 8 months ago

Here is a concise article detailing more lies from the O&G industry, this time on dubious job creation and economic benefit, but also touching on some points I made above.

Expect a steady stream of slick PR from the industry. They hired Hill and Knowlton, the same firm that Big Tobacco hired to obfuscate and cause decades of delay in much needed tobacco regulation. Their simple strategy?: Create doubt. Guess what their strategy is for helping their O&G clients.



jerry carlton 3 years, 8 months ago

If multinational corporations continue to export jobs, multinational oil companies export our energy, and the super rich and politicians continue to line their pockets at the expense of the middle class and the poor, will there be any middle class or poor to buy their products, use their energy or pay their taxes?


rhys jones 3 years, 8 months ago

Jerry -- It's Survival of the Fittest in this dog-eat-dog New Age; hopefully your future is assured, wish we were all so lucky. It's going to get very interesting in the very near future, this pundit predicts, as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, the middle class shrinks, and the gulf widens. Will there be riots in frustration? Widespread looting? (almost said "panic") Crime in the streets?

Borders dissolve, tariffs vanish, all in the name of Free Trade and Globalization...

Will China take over? Cut the Saudis in for their share? Will Vladimir get a slice? He wants in on the action...

Soon the uber-rich will be lining the docks and tarmacs of Bora Bora and American Samoa with their cabin cruisers and Gulfstreams, not a care in the world about the strife they left behind...

The Federal Reserve will survive it all, their fortresses intact, so they can milk whatever's left, and ride herd over all their Chase ATM's...

Think the Nuggets will have won a championship by then? God I hope so!! A week from Sunday, Lakers, preseason... I hope things haven't collapsed yet!!


rhys jones 3 years, 8 months ago

PS -- Jerry, won't you be departing our company soon? Heading south toward Jack the Ripper's former haunt? Home of the neuveau riche, just "comfortable" (in Texas)? We never had that beer at Carl's, and I'm a cheap date -- heck, I'll buy you one, I get the service discount, happy hour prices always, a great thing Collin does for worker bees such as myself. He won't mind. Bluegrass tonight, and I'm thinking about going...

Is Havasu like Phoenix, where they blocked Altitude during Nuggets games, because that is Suns country? Do you have to buy the NBA package to get all the Nuggets games? See, there ya go, Da Man, sticking it to us again, any way he can...


jerry carlton 3 years, 8 months ago

Rhys Not leaving until the end of Oct. Weather is still too nice most of Oct. to bail out. Only time I get to see the Nuggets is when they are playing Phoenix or on a national telecast on TNT or TBS or whichever. If you get a chance, on ESPN I saw a documentary called "The House of Manning". It was really good and about Archie and his wife raising their three sons. Explained a lot about Peytons work ethic and quest for perfection. 32 of 37 is getting close to perfect in the NFL. I am predicting Denver will go undefeated until they clinch the division and then they will sit Peyton to rest him and some will beat them. Then they will win the super bowl for two straight years and Peyton will retire. Remember. you read it first here.


Dan Kuechenmeister 3 years, 8 months ago

Jerry, Agreed. This is best time of year. In town yesterday. Took picture - blue sky, white snow and golden aspens on Storm Peak. Love the fall although the winds are howling up in Stagecoach today. Peyton is great, but I still remember the hated enemy Favre joining the Vikings only to throw a bonehead interception against the Saints when had he rumbled and stumbled an easy 5 yards my Vikings might have kicked a game winning field goal to advance to the Super Bowl where of course they would have lost for a record 5th time. Was glad that Decker (I am a Golden Gopher after all) appeared to be his featured receiver the other night as he struggled the first couple of games.


jerry carlton 3 years, 7 months ago

Decker just had a couple of mediocre games. Decker, the Thomas duo, and Welker are the best group of four recievers currently in the NFL .It would not surprise me to see all of them have 100 receptions this year and I would bet that has never happened before. None of them are currently superstars but they are all EXCELLENT!


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