September 27, 2021

With flooding events becoming more intense and frequent, including events like Hurricanes Henri and Ida, the U.S. Senate recently took action to lessen the economic and recovery impacts of these disasters by passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation, which now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, makes a landmark commitment to improving the ability of the nation’s infrastructure, such as its roads and bridges, to withstand flooding while also supporting state and community programs designed to improve local resilience.

According to Bill Nechamen, co-chair of the New York State Floodplain and Stormwater Managers Association policy committee, “Flood risk is increasing due to both unwise development and changing storm and precipitation patterns. Experience has shown that while engineered hard structures may be necessary in some areas, they are often not a cost effective or sustainable way to reduce flood risk. In order to make the best use of taxpayer dollars, flood mitigation should focus on sustainable practices that work with nature and use proven techniques, such as elevation of existing structures and buyouts to make room for floods.”

Key provisions in the legislation that would help limit the impacts from flooding include:

  • Devoting $8.7 billion for a first-of-its-kind transportation resilience grant program to support state and community actions that reduce the vulnerability of roads, bridges, and other transportation assets to natural disasters
  • Establishing incentives for states and metropolitan planning organizations to address future risk in long-term transportation plans
  • Ensuring the consideration of nature-based solutions for improving resilience to flood-related disasters
  • Infusing $4.5 billion in FEMA disaster mitigation programs to support local efforts to address flooding, such as buying out flood-prone properties

According to Forbes Tompkins, manager of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Flood-Prepared Communities program, in an analysis of the bill’s flood resilience measures, “The resilience measures included in the bipartisan bill can make significant strides toward better preparing communities and infrastructure for these threats by weaving disaster mitigation into the foundation of new and existing federal programs.”

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