Will the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) be reauthorized, extended, or what?

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will expire at the end of the month. For anyone that has read the newspaper lately, this is a lousy time for the program to expire with two hurricanes bearing down on the Eastern seaboard, and Texas’ largest city recovering from a 100-year storm. But politically, it is a wonderful time for the program to expire. First, there are suddenly many members of Congress motivated to ensure it doesn’t expire. Secondly, the risk of flood, and the shortfalls of the program, are fresh in our minds as we consider changes that might be made to the program as part of the reauthorization. While what will happen is still akin to a drinking game with people placing bets, here’s what we currently know.

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How Should the Flood Management Community Deal with the Uncertainty of Climate Change?

Despite reticence in Washington, D.C. about the term “climate change” (see yesterday’s blog post on this topic), there is plenty of discussion in the media and in scientific circles about whether intense, off-the-charts storms like Hurricane Harvey are the result of, or are associated with, climate change. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to see a widely agreed-upon answer to that question (at least in political circles) in the near future. The good news is that the flood management community doesn’t need to have a precise answer to that question in order to consider how to deal with the uncertainty associated with changes in climate that scientists are predicting over the next few decades. Continue Reading

Senate Democrats Are Eager to Invest in Infrastructure, Including Flood (but what about Climate Change?)

The democratic members of the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee took the initiative to lay out their priorities for a future infrastructure package. Those priorities, totaling over $500 billion, are included in a July 21, 2017 EPW Minority Letter on Infrastructure to Chairman Barrasso (WY).  They include only the types of infrastructure which are under EPW’s jurisdiction, but the Senators do make clear their desire to see a comprehensive infrastructure package that would extend well beyond EPW’s purview.  As well the letter specifies the need for direct federal investments rather than relying on private financing.  Interestingly, within the list of priorities is a proposal for $25 billion for resiliency for extreme weather events.

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Flooding in Houston: Can We – Should We? – Plan for Such Massive Flooding Events?

All eyes are appropriately on Houston right now, where record rainfall has led to catastrophic flooding, loss of life, inestimable damages, and years if not decades of recovery and re-building. Around the country, many communities are now sitting up and paying more attention to that question, “what if that happened here?” Here in Sacramento, where Hurricane Katrina served as a stark warning in 2005 of what can happen when a large storm event overwhelms a flood protection system, the State and local flood protection and maintenance agencies have been hard at work bringing urban levees up to higher standards of protection, consistent with the State’s Central Valley Flood Protection Plan. That Plan was required by Legislation passed in 2007 and paid for by a bond initiative passed by California voters in 2006 – both a clear response to the damage and loss of life in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. Continue Reading

A Quick Look at What’s Ahead on the Water Infrastructure Front

Today’s post features commentary from guest author Julie Minerva.

I often joke with my clients that following issues too closely at the federal level can result in whiplash. To that regard, it has been a very active summer in Washington, DC on the water infrastructure front. Here’s a rapid fire look at some of the top items of interest that we are sure to hear more about in the fall. Try not to get whiplash. Continue Reading

Trump Executive Order Issued on Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and Regulatory Reform

August 15, 2017 was a busy day for the Trump Administration. While interacting with the press and other politicians regarding the protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, the White House was also issuing an Executive Order with potentially far-reaching effects on flood management. Continue Reading

A Welcome Surprise From Congress

Today’s post features commentary from guest author Julie Minerva.

For lobbyists, reading through annual appropriations reports is like hunting for Easter eggs. Unlike appropriations bills which are slim and rather constrained documents, appropriations reports provide an opportunity for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to communicate directly to federal agencies. Whether it be prescribing direction to an agency on a particular federal program, conveying the committee’s opinion on an agency’s action (or as the case often is, inaction), or holding back federal funds until an agency performs in accordance with the wishes of the committee, appropriations reports are both entertaining and insightful for Washington insiders.  Continue Reading

USACE Issues Guidance on Contributed Funds for Section 408 Review

Guidance

As many in the industry have learned recently, the FY 17 budget only included approximately $3 million nationwide for processing 33 U.S.C. Section 408 review. This is the Section under which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) claims jurisdiction to review and approve any alterations or encroachments to Federally authorized water resources facilities such as levees and channels. As a result, in the last few weeks the funds were all expended and, even after a $500,000 reprogramming, the USACE has only been able to fund a limited number of 408 reviews nationwide. In order to address this issue, and keep review moving, USACE just issued new guidance for a simpler form of funding USACE’s review. Continue Reading

James Dalton, Director of Civil Works at USACE, Offers Valuable Perspectives at Annual NAFSMA Conference

Process

One of the best ways to learn about the direction of national flood risk management is to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA). The NAFSMA conference is an amazing meeting of decision-makers and thought-leaders from around the country, with important topics discussed at a plenary session-only conference. And one of my favorite sessions is where the Director of Civil Works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a chance to present. Following are some high-level thoughts shared by Mr. Dalton on his June 21 Memorandum that we highlighted yesterday:

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New Guidance from USACE Could Streamline Processes

Project EfficiencyA June 21, 2017 Memorandum issued by James Dalton, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Director of Civil Works, is designed to streamline a number of USACE processes, including:

  • Embracing risk-based decision-making.  While USACE has always been good at evaluating the risk of flooding from the present condition, or the future condition, it has not been good at evaluating whether you get better decisions from the delay associates with collecting more data.  Hopefully, this new direction will provide useful guidance in this area.
  • Determining what level of decision-making should be made at the different levels within USACE.
  • Better understanding the ways in which HQ can support, and where appropriate review, the actions of the Districts and Divisions (Major Subordinate Commands).
  • Evaluating and understanding the thousands of USACE policies so that there isn’t duplication and clarity exists about what policies should be followed.
  • Better performance to ensure the incorporation of social and environmental benefits into project formulations.

For more details, you can review the Memorandum here.

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