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.

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.

There is significant uncertainty as to the intent and effect of the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, released as part of the Obama Administration’s issuance of Executive Order 13690, issued in January to amend Executive Order 11988. Based on the chatter in the flood risk management community, the

President Obama recently  issued an Executive Order “Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input.” The Order sets forth President Obama’s administration’s floodplain management policy and significantly amends Executive Order 11988 issued by President Carter.  Downey Brand has created a redline for your reference.

In 1977, then President Carter issued Executive Order No. 11988 (“EO 11988” or “Order”) in order to avoid to the extent possible the long and short term adverse impacts associated with the occupancy and modification of floodplains and to avoid direct or indirect support of floodplain development wherever there is a practicable alternative.  While Federal enforcement of this Order has been inconsistent over the years, recently Federal agencies have begun to apply the Order to Federal permitting, studies, decisions, and funding.