Saturday, January 31, 2015

Obama Executive Order: Federally Funded Projects Must Consider Sea Level Rise

Parking lot at Norfolk Naval Base
Here in Hampton Roads, there are plenty of federally funded construction projects, many involving the region's military installations, the largest of which is the Norfolk Naval Base.  With sea levels rising due to global warming - a term the Virginia GOP doesn't want even uttered - it would be insane to continue to build new projects that do not consider future sea levels and merely look at current data.  Yesterday, Barack Obama recognized the idiocy of the past and current practices and signed an executive order that will make it mandatory to factor in projected future sea levels for any federally funded projects.  If followed, many projects will need to be revised and many projects could be scuttled.  Here are highlights from the Virginian Pilot:

President Barack Obama on Friday signed an executive order requiring that all federally funded construction projects take into account flood risks linked to global warming. The order directs federal agencies to adopt stricter building and siting standards.  

The new standard gives agencies three options forestablishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design and construction of federally funded projects. They can use data and methods "informed by best-available, actionable climate science"; build 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation for standard projects and 3 feet above for critical buildings such as hospitals and evacuation centers; or build to the 500-year flood elevation.

The new policy does not make changes to the National Flood Insurance Program, which covers Americans in flood-prone areas with federally backed insurance provided they meet federal standards aimed at minimizing risks. But it will apply to grants the program provides, thereby affecting construction in flood-prone areas.

The standard also would make significant swaths of low-lying land ineligible for construction with federal money.

The White House move comes just days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a massive post-Hurricane Sandy report examining flood risks for 31,200 miles of the North Atlantic coast.

The research explicitly took sea level rise induced by climate change into account and finds: "Flood risk is increasing for coastal populations and supporting infrastructure."

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted coastal areas will face 30 or more days of flooding by mid-century because of sea level rise. According to the National Climate Assessment, more than $1 trillion of property and structures in the United States are at risk of inundation from sea level rise of 2 feet above current sea level - an elevation that could be reached by that same point.

While global warming is a contested political issue, more than 350 state and local governments have adopted flood standards along the lines of what the Obama administration is now requiring.

No comments: