Flooding is an ongoing and costly problem across the United States. 2020 brought a historic hurricane season that left billions of dollars in damage.
Climate change is projected to bring more extreme weather disasters, which the country should better prepare for.
Thankfully the present administration has put in place several initiatives to mitigate flood risk and cost – which have risen steadily over the decades.
State governments play a huge role in establishing and implementing flood hazard prevention and adaptation efforts – from deciding where federal money should go in infrastructure projects to regulating local government and special water districts.
When addressing flood hazards, do states’ have a deliberate or comprehensive approach to managing flood hazards beyond the minimal or perfunctory federal requirements?
The report by the Urban Institute, “State Flood Resilience and Adaptation Planning,” states that the current flood planning and consequent ability to bring their financial and intellectual resources are mainly insufficient to meet the current need.
Climate change will cause sea levels to rise, more intense cyclones and hurricanes, and more heavy rains that will lead to severe flooding, highlighting the need to address the gap.
The report conducted a national survey of active flood plans in all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia.
The team reviewed 148 relevant plans that included climate action plans, resilience plans, direct flood response plans with mitigation components, emergency management plans, explicitly labeled flood plans, water management plans, coastal management plans, and state hazard mitigation plans (SHMPs), and combined hazard mitigation and climate plans required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
These are the report’s key findings:
- “Flooding was often only a small component of most plans in the review. Aside from SHMPs and coastal plans, the most common plan types in the survey were climate plans; resilience plans, which address shocks and stressors across all locally identified hazards; and water plans, which primarily address state management of water resources, including supply and quality, but also may address water-related hazards.”
- “Most plans did not include meaningful incorporation of social vulnerability. Only 24 plans (from 22 states) of the 148 plans included in the survey had an extensive discussion of social vulnerability that connected the geographic risk assessment to discussions of specific vulnerable populations within the area.”
- “Just over half of the relevant plans surveyed for which a time frame was determined were developed over one year or less, leaving little time for meaningful public engagement.”
- “Few plans included strategies to assist low-capacity localities (i.e., geographically defined areas with limited government resources, low funding, or a lack of technical skills) or track and monitor local capacity improvements to address flood hazards.”
- “Contractors played extensive roles in producing state plans, although emergency management departments developed one-third of all plans in our review. The involvement of contractors suggests that the art and science of flood planning may increasingly involve professionalization and private practice, potentially omitting local connections and institutional knowledge from the process.”
The States can use the massive funding from the Infrastructure Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) to address the gaps identified in the report and develop pioneering climate resilience and adaptation plans and see them being implemented.