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New Congressional Legislation Promises Flood-Ready Federal Infrastructure
House bill would ensure taxpayer funded infrastructure is built to withstand future flood risks
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In an effort to lessen the impacts of flood-related disasters and lower the cost of recovery in Florida and across the nation, U.S. Reps. David Price (D-NC-4) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) have introduced the bipartisan Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2020 (H.R. 8462.
The Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2020 directs federal agencies to plan for future risks, such as those associated with severe storms and rising sea levels, when using taxpayer dollars to build, improve, or repair communities and infrastructure in flood-prone areas. This will improve public safety, cut recovery costs, and enhance a community’s ability to quickly bounce back following a disaster by ensuring the nation’s critical infrastructure and water systems are flood-ready. Current national standards do not account for the increasing flood risks—or the costly cycle of repair—that are escalating recovery costs. As a result, since 2000, the federal government has paid tens of billions of dollars to help rebuild public infrastructure after major flood disasters. Without updated flood safeguards, that figure is likely to continue to grow.
Former Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management Wes Maul said, “Across Florida, flooding has become a daily hazard with blue sky flood events and slow-moving storm systems wreaking havoc in communities from Miami Beach to Pensacola. With every flood bringing more harm to Florida families and businesses, it is time to take action that prioritizes resilience and mitigation and fixes the out-of-control and disjointed federal spending on disaster response that has become the norm.
“In Florida, we know too well the cost of flood-related disasters. Over the past decade, Florida has had 10 flood-related Presidential Disaster Declarations, costing taxpayers billions in disaster response and recovery. Congress should seize this opportunity to pass bipartisan legislation which will better position our state and nation to protect its citizens and ensure a more accountable use of our precious tax dollars and resources.”
More than 30 national organizations including fiscal conservatives, flood risk managers, insurance businesses, architects, engineers, design professionals, public works professionals, and non-profits have come together in a letter to Congress supporting of the Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act.
Florida-based support for this legislation includes:
1000 Friends of Florida
Federal Association for Insurance Reform
Florida Floodplain Managers Association
Florida League of Cities
Florida Rural Water Association
Florida Wildlife Federation
League of Women Voters of Florida
My Flood Risk
Shadybrook Village Condo Association
Congressional letter as follows:
NATIONAL SUPPORT FOR THE FLOOD RESILIENCY AND TAXPAYER SAVINGS ACT
Our organizations represent fiscal conservatives, flood risk managers, insurance businesses, architects, engineers, design professionals, public works professionals, and non-profit organizations. We are writing to support legislation, the Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act of 2020, that calls for a pragmatic approach to enhance the safety of federal investments and communities when building and rebuilding in flood-prone areas.
Flooding is the most common and expensive natural disaster in the United States, costing the nation more than $845 billion in estimated losses from flood- and hurricane-related disasters since 2000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This growing disaster toll has strained the capacity of federal, state, and local governments to respond and recover. The federal government – using taxpayer dollars — often pays a significant portion of these repair and recovery costs, sometimes paying to rebuild the same school, fire station, road, or other structure multiple times.
This increasingly costly cycle of flood damage and repair is driven in part by the outdated approach of federal agencies focusing on historical data that fails to account for today’s weather patterns and future risk.
The legislation addresses this problem by directing federal agencies to plan for future risk as they evaluate spending taxpayer dollars in flood-prone areas. To accomplish this the bill calls on agencies to use the best available data, including FEMA maps, state and local assessments, hydrologic and hydraulic studies, and other relevant information. In cases where insufficient data exists, it provides agencies with the flexibility to assume higher flood levels throughout the intended life of projects. When shielding federal investments from future damages a range of potential safeguards can be utilized—such as nature-based systems, structural elevation, hardening, or other resilience strategies.
Forward-looking, pragmatic approaches like this are not only critically needed but well-supported across the political spectrum. Recent polling by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that 85 percent of Americans (80 percent of Republicans, 91 percent of Democrats, and 87 percent of Independents) support a requirement that all federally funded projects in flood-prone areas be constructed to better withstand future flooding.
Increasing the resiliency of federal investments through better planning for future flood risk and by leveraging natural systems and other mitigation strategies will reduce damages, protect people and property, and accelerate post-disaster recovery – all while saving taxpayer dollars.
We strongly support this important legislation and urge Congress to quickly support and pass it.
American Institute of Architects
American Planning Association
American Property Casualty Insurance Association
American Public Works Association
American Society of Civil Engineers
American Society of Landscape Architects
Association of State Floodplain Managers
Center for American Progress
Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers
Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
Environmental and Energy Study Institute
Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
National Institute of Building Sciences
National Low Income Housing Coalition
National Taxpayers Union
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
R Street Institute
Reinsurance Association of America
Rise to Resilience
Smart Home America
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayer Protection Alliance
The Alliance for National and Community Resilience
The Nature Conservancy
The Pew Charitable Trusts
U.S. Resiliency Council
Union of Concerned Scientists