Friday, October 25, 2013

Pondering the Colorado floods on the way to GSA 2013 Denver

Editor's note: This is the first blog post by our new Research Assistant, Anna Durrett.

Last week’s end of the government shutdown will bring needed disaster recovery funds to Colorado.The deal that reopened the government included $450 million for rebuilding transportation infrastructure in Colorado devastated by flooding last month.

While money is necessary to rebuild, Colorado’s problems are not over. Not all roads and bridges should simply be rebuilt. Infrastructure should be built smarter to fit the new climate we are facing and be less susceptible to severe damage.

Floodwater destroys a bridge along Highway 34
toward Estes Park, Colorado, on September 13, 2013.
(AP Photo/Colorado Heli-Ops, Dennis Pierce)
See more photos of flooding here.

States must fight lengthy battles to rebuild stronger infrastructure in order to be less vulnerable when the next storm comes along. Making upgrades during rebuilding often has higher short-term costs, but it can reduce long-term costs and reduce damages in the future.

River conservation and science education are two of our prime goals at Little River Research & Design. One of the main purposes of our models is to help educate legislators and stakeholders, and our models were extensively used for this following flood damage in the Northeastern U.S. in 2011.

Roadways should be given different paths that are less susceptible to flood damage. When roads run along rivers, floods can cause severe damage that is not a quick fix. On mountain terrain, there isn't always another option, but a new design could be possible in some damaged areas.

Bridges can also be improved. Floodwaters can wash away poorly designed bridges that are out of harmony with river processes, and those bridges are good candidates for a redesign.

Out of Colorado’s 411 bridges on state roads, 120 need repairs, but the Colorado Department of Transportation deemed none to be completely destroyed and in need of replacement.

Some bridges on local roads will need to be replaced. Colorado Springs plans to replace seven bridges.

Colorado will be hit by another flood, and what happens during the next few years while the state rebuilds will make all the difference. Financial cost isn’t the only concerning issue. Eight people died in October’s flood, and the environmental impact from oil and gas spills is yet to be fully known.

You can see the immense power of water in this video from Loveland, Colo. where the flooded Big Thompson River nearly destroyed the town’s last water pipeline.

There are people with good ideas out there making positive changes. Rives Taylor of Houston is one of the people on the right track to handling stormwater. He advocates for working with the water instead of against it.

Four of us from LRRD will display our Emriver models in Denver next week at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting. I look forward to learning more about the effects of the flood and rebuilding efforts in Colorado directly from the scientists living and working there. I am also excited to see GSA attendees interact with our models.

Nathan packs the truck before heading to Denver for GSA 2013.
If you would like to come see our Emriver models in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, we’ll be there from Sunday, Oct. 27 to Wednesday, Oct. 30. You can email me at anna.lrrd at gmail dot com for all the details.

Nathan talks with GSA attendees in 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stop the government shutdown now!

The current crew at LRRD. Nine of us depend on LRRD for
 our living.

An open letter to friends, colleagues, and our vendors:

The ongoing government shutdown is hurting our business and is about to hurt yours. This is not the way our democracy should work.

This GOP-engineered move against our recently re-elected President and the Supreme Court-approved Affordable Care Act is terribly irresponsible and must stop at once.  Government employees aren’t allowed to work, the private sector is unable to operate normally, and a massive amount of uncertainty has been injected into the economy.

The annual GSA meeting is our one big chance to show
 our products; it'll be a disaster if federal employees can't
attend this year.
We are a small business of nine dedicated people in Carbondale, Illinois.  A good portion of our research and education products are purchased with federal funds.  Little River was already suffering from one of the worst economic slumps in US history. 

This crass move hurts us further, and will soon be reflected in your bottom line as well.

Here's how the shutdown has directly impacted LRRD in only one week:
  • $500,000 in open quotes hangs in the balance.  Whether or not we make those sales depends directly on the sort of federal funding that is held up by the shutdown.
  • Our clients who depend on federal grant money - that includes universities, colleges, public schools, private schools, museums and nonprofits, to name a few - don't know the status of their grants for FY2014.  Those who applied for grants don't know if they'll get funding.  Those who got funding can't access it until the budget is approved.
  • The Illinois Office of Trade and Development awarded us money through the STEP program for a sales trip abroad.  That money comes from the Small Business Administration, a federal entity, and we can't have it until after the shutdown ends.

If the shutdown doesn’t end soon, we lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.  When we lose business, our suppliers lose business.  See a list of some of those suppliers below, who can expect a dramatic cut in sales from us as the shutdown drags on.

Since much of basic research in Earth Sciences and medicine is government funded, our colleagues in those areas are suffering as well, and not just from furlough.  Valuable projects are being abandoned and spoiled because scientists cannot monitor them, or are going to miss once-a-year field windows.  

Our biggest conference of the year, the Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting in Denver, is only two weeks away.  If federal employees are barred from attending, our $25,000 investment in a booth there will be largely wasted.

The list goes on and on.  This is no way to run a great country.

Please contact your elected representatives ( in Washington and tell them to pass a budget and end this shutdown immediately.


Steve Gough
Owner and Founder, Little River Research & Design
Since 1991

Local suppliers:
Baine Roofing Company
Common Grounds Coffeehouse
Fastenal Company
Longbranch Coffeehouse
Lowe’s Home Improvement
Hunan Restaurant
Murdale True Value Hardware
Neighborhood Co-op Grocery
Pagliai's Pizza
Southern Recycling Center
Wright Do-It Center
National suppliers:
Allied Electronics
BDG International Inc.
Composition Materials
Critical Velocity
Digi-Key Electronics
Enco Manufacturing
Jameco Electronics
Little Machine Shop
Mouser Electronics
L.E. Sauer Machine Shop
YRC Freight

Nathan finishes an Em2 box.

Jim, Nathan, and Anna ship a river model.  Many of our
models are at least in part federally funded, and many
vendors, including this truck driver, depend on our 

Our models are used worldwide for education and
research in river science, earth sciences and conservation.

Vital research that must be done in narrow field seasons has been abandoned
or cancelled; in some cases, project are ruined.  This is a huge waste of money.