The Fern Hollow Bridge collapse in Pittsburgh was the latest in a growing myriad of infrastructure failures occurring across the country. Unlike Fern Hollow, many cases have involved critical assets succumbing to natural disasters. Look no further than last year, when atmospheric rivers destroyed portions of California’s Highway 1; Hurricane Ida caused the loss of power to more than one million utility customers in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama; floodwaters rendered the headquarters of the Bloomington, Indiana Fire Department uninhabitable; and torrential rains destroyed bridges in West Virginia.
In the weeks ahead, as funds for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package signed into law in November begin to trickle in, lawmakers have both the opportunity and the obligation to be certain that we are spending that money wisely. We need to repair and replace aging infrastructure, but we need to do so in a way that provides protection against increasingly intense storms and floods. Now is the time to support bipartisan legislation that would leverage taxpayer dollars to make our country’s roads, hospitals and public services more resilient.
We have worked as key leaders in the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations, with an important part of our job responding to natural disasters. During our collective terms in public service, we have too often seen firsthand the human suffering and costly damage caused by catastrophic floods, seeing thousands of people lose their homes in the fury of hurricanes; localities forever disrupted by unprecedented floods; and livelihoods disrupted by record floods from coast to coast. And while there are some issues on which we disagree, these experiences have brought us together on one: the critical need for a fiscally responsible and sustainable solution to ensure that new federal investments will not be carried away in the years to come.
Upon taking office, President BidenJoe BidenUS Ambassador to UN Calls Putin’s Peacekeepers ‘Nonsense’ US Moves Embassy Staff from Ukraine to Poland reinstated an Obama-era policy to ensure that federally funded projects — such as schools and water treatment plants — would be built with consideration for future risks. Known as the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, this important measure was reversed with the stroke of a pen in 2017 just days before Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast – one decision at a time. frustrating and which we opposed. As we’ve seen firsthand, while the policy is once again enshrined in a presidential directive today, it could disappear again in the future. It is therefore essential that Congress take action to secure a permanent solution.
Fortunately, a practical bipartisan proposal already exists. Presented by Rep. David PriceDavid Eugene PriceOur infrastructure succumbs to natural disasters – we must be prepared for worsening flooding The Hill’s Morning Report – Democrats juggle priorities in the face of a new challenge (DN.C.) and Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinOur infrastructure succumbs to natural disasters – we must be prepared for worsening floods New York lawmakers approve congressional map that could help Democrats flip three seats New York lawmakers unveil map that would increase the number of Democratic seats MORE (RN.Y.) with a list of co-sponsors, the Flood Resilience and Taxpayer Savings Act would make communities safer and ensure taxpayer dollars are used wisely.
The concept is simple. If a highway, fire station, or airport is designed to last 30, 50, or 70 years, its design must include common sense planning and safeguards to ensure it can sustain the frequency and magnitude expected. floods during this period. This will help minimize emergency response and repair costs, reduce supply chain disruptions, and better protect the infrastructure that Americans depend on every day. It will also save lives and money.
This prospective approach is not new. A growing number of localities, states and private investors across the country are leading the way in incorporating future flood risks from threats such as heavier downpours and rising sea levels during construction and reconstruction.
In Houston, for example, Tropical Storm Allison caused $5 billion in damage and destroyed decades of medical research in 2001. But when the medical center was rebuilt, it did so by prioritizing resilience, by installing anti-flood valves, raising electrical equipment, improving stormwater drainage and factoring in expected land subsidence in the years to come. These upgrades allowed the facility to remain operational during Hurricane Harvey.
Elsewhere, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons, has incorporated a stormwater management system that includes a cistern, swales and a 1.1 million gallon underground vault to help prevent flooding in nearby communities by capturing and slowly releasing stormwater. And in Massachusetts, a waterfront hospital has been designed to accommodate projections of sea level rise through the year 2100.
In 2020, the Governor of Florida. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantis Florida ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Amendment Requires Schools to Send Students to Parents Within Six Weeks Our Infrastructure Succumbs to Natural Disasters – We Must Be Prepared for Worsening floods (R) signed legislation requiring assessments of the projected impacts of sea level rise over the project’s expected lifespan – or 50 years, whichever is less – for state-funded construction in coastal areas. It is important to note that these assessments should include alternative siting and design approaches that can reduce the risk of flooding. Similar future risk reviews have been adopted in California and Maryland.
And public support for these laws is widespread: A 2020 poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that 85% of Americans of all political backgrounds support that federally funded projects in flood-prone areas should be built to withstand future flooding.
Every day lawmakers wait to act is one day closer to the next natural disaster. We have no say in when and where the next strikes, but Congress can and should act now to ensure the country is better prepared when it does by passing the flood resilience and taxpayer savings.
Thomas P. Bossert is chairman of Trinity Cyber, Inc. and served as the President’s White House Assistant for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism from 2017 to 2018.
Craig Fugate was the administrator of FEMA under President Barack Obama and the head of the Florida Emergency Management Agency under Governor Jeb Bush. He currently sits on the board of directors of American public television networks.