Coming: Project Impact #2

From TheHill: How to protect US communities from future disasters. Author is James L. Witt, former FEMA Director. An excerpt:

In early 2019, Project Impact 2 will launch — this time backed by the private sector. This project is a nationwide campaign with the goal of engaging community leaders and the public to tackle future impacts of increasingly frequent and severe weather events and climate change.

This initiative will provide the vehicle to create a community coalition, establish a process and blueprint for action within the community, and facilitate access to resources to implement community risk reduction actions.

New Ideas for Coastal Flood Protection

‘Living With Water’: Cities Facing Climate Change Trade Sea Walls for Parks

To protect itself from a devastating flood, Boston was considering building a massive sea wall, cutting north to south through nearly 4 miles of Boston Harbor, taking $11 billion and at least 30 years to build. But a new plan unveiled in October represents a 180-degree turn: Instead of fighting to keep the water out, the city is letting it come in.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a Democrat, announced the city would be scrapping the idea of a sea wall in favor of, among other things, a system of waterfront parks and elevation of some flood-prone areas. The city will add 67 new acres of green space along the water and restore 122 tidal acres.

We Should Know Better And Try to Do Better re Mitigation

From the Pew Trusts, this report (11 pages) on disaster mitigation. Natural Disaster Mitigation Spending Not Comprehensively Tracked. Most federal funding to help states manage cost growth is available only after an incident. Here is the concluding paragraph:

Because the federal government and state do not know how much they spend on mitigation in total, they lack the information to accurate compare proactive investments with post-disaster response and recovery Expenditures. All levels of government need a more comprehensive understanding of federal and state investment in order to better target funding to help manage the growing costs of catastrophic events.

FEMA used to have a program called Project Impact, which made money available for mitigation prior to a disaster. But the G..W. Bush administration killed the program. It is truly painful to see lessons forgotten or ignored.

Update: for those not familiar with Project Impact, which was notable and effective during its short life, I suggest you use Google Scholar with the search term “FEMA and Project Impact.” There you will find several studies and articles. See especially the study done by the Univ. of Delaware.

Once Again – Failure to Learn from Experience

From Governing, this article about a recent IBHS study: As Storms Worsen, Many Coastal States Aren’t Prepared. Lax building codes and poor enforcement are a big problem in some places. An excerpt:

Eight out of the 18 hurricane-prone coastal states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Coast are highly vulnerable, according to a new report from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). The report, Rating the States: 2018, is the institute’s third in six years. It evaluates the states on 47 factors that include whether residential building codes are mandated statewide, whether states and localities enforce those codes, and whether licensing and education are required of building officials, contractors and subcontractors.

Overall, the institute found “a concerning lack of progress” in the adoption and enforcement of updated residential building code systems across most of the states examined. “There’s not been much movement from [the first report] in 2012 to today,” says Julie Rochman, who stepped down as CEO and president of IBHS in April. “There’s some inertia.”

Once More on the Value of Mitigation

New article from Scientific American: Communities are spending money on disasters at the wrong time: after the damage has been done, not before.

That is the central theme Zurich Insurance Group takes in a recently released report that draws conclusions about natural disaster mitigation by analyzing a series of 12 events—floods, storms and hurricanes—since the summer of 2013.

In its study, the global insurer found that every $1 spent on “disaster resilience” saves $5 in limiting future costs, including post-storm cleanup efforts.

In recent years, various reports have cited savings of $4,.$5, and $6 dollars in costs but whatever the number the message is mitigation pays.

Is Structural Mitigation the Answer for Protecting Boston Harbor?

The Diva was watching Nightly Business News on May 30th and was especially interested in a feature they did about potential flooding in Boston harbor and its effects on current and planned real estate development in that area. [Personal note: the Diva is from the Boston area and her dad owned a store in the harbor area.]

I was told by a Boston-based friend that recently there has been extensive news coverage regarding a proposed flood barrier costing over $12 billion dollars, which will not be fully completed until 2050. That is a long time to wait, and one can only wonder if a barrier will in fact solve the Boston Harbor inundation problem due to sea level rise.

I was told that Boston’s 2015 Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan did not include the proposed flood barrier,  but preferred natural shoreline solutions which are much less expensive to implement on a quicker timeline.

For those interested in the Boston mitigation situation, which is probably a bellweather for other major eastern coastal cities, here are several news articles: