Governor Polis clears declaration of disaster for Glenwood Canyon mudslides


DENVER, Colo. (KKTV) – Governor Jared Polis has issued a disaster statement for the devastating damage caused by the mudslides that forced I-70 to close in Glenwood Canyon. Governor Polis announced earlier this week that he would release the statement.

The disaster declaration authorizes the use of the Colorado National Guard for traffic control and debris removal. The declaration also activates the state’s emergency operations plan and allows state agencies to better coordinate their response.

Additional funds will also be provided to respond to damages and repairs needed in areas affected by flooding and mudslides.

The executive decree also temporarily suspends certain procurement statutes and hours of service regulations for certain commercial drivers to enable the state to procure the goods and services needed to mitigate the effects of the disaster. The second decree will allow the state to solicit federal funds to help with the recovery.

The State Emergency Operations Center officially started with a team in place.

C-DOT formed an Incident Command Team to manage road operations for the incident. The same model was used in major incidents like the 2013 floods.

In a press release from Governor Polis, he said, “The I-70 corridor through Glenwood Canyon is critical to Colorado’s economy and necessary for the Coloradans to move quickly around the state. Glenwood Canyon plays a major role in the day-to-day life of communities across the Western Slope as well as moving our supply chain across the state, supporting our outdoor recreation industry, and much more. This disaster declaration will help deploy more resources to clean up the canyon and ensure Colorado is prepared for future disasters that could impact this critical stage of I-70. “

The governor and administration are reviewing the damage and preparing to seek a federal declaration of disaster from President Joe Biden under Stafford Act and through the Federal Highway Administration. It would provide Colorado federal funding to respond to mudslides if approved by the Biden-Harris administration.

The executive order also says, “Between June 26, 2021 and July 28, 2021, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) closed I-70 through Glenwood Canyon twelve times due to flash flood warnings. During that same period, at least five floods caused mudslides and debris flows to cover the roadway, prolonging closures of I-70 while CDOT crews cleared the road. On July 29, 2021, two to four inches of rain fell in an hour in Glenwood Canyon, resulting in even more intense debris flows that blocked the roadway and heavy nighttime rain from July 31, 2021 to August 1, 2021, caused even more mud and debris to block the pavement. I-70 has been closed indefinitely since. These storms in July and early August caused extensive damage to at least four inconspicuous structures in the canyon, and CDOT may discover more as debris is removed from affected areas. The recent temporary shutdowns and the current indefinite shutdown have strained local, state and federal supply chains and economies. ”

For an overview of closures and detours around I-70, click here.

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