ASCE, along with other advocacy groups, policymakers, and business leaders, participated in an event entitled “Partnerships & Progress: Driving Climate Solutions” held by The Hill and the Bipartisan Policy Center to discuss bipartisan congressional initiatives on clean energy, resilience, and disaster preparedness. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) kicked of the event with conversations about what each is doing on climate solution legislation. ASCE recently endorsed Sen. Whitehouse’s Innovative Materials for America’s Growth & Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act (S. 3341), a bill that encourages the research and use of innovative construction materials and techniques in transportation and water infrastructure projects across the nation. This bill creates an interagency Innovative Materials Task Force to assess existing standards for innovative materials, develop new methods, and identify barriers to broader market adoption and dedicates much-needed research funding to help state agencies further develop innovative materials and prioritize resilient infrastructure in rural and coastal areas. ASCE endorsed the IMAGINE Act because we believe the utilization of new approaches, materials, and technologies is key to ensuring our nation’s infrastructure is both more resilient and sustainable.
ASCE’s Managing Director of Government Relations & Infrastructure Initiatives, Brian Pallasch, while participating on a panel, spoke about how a critical component of raising our nation’s infrastructure grade is careful preparation for the needs of the future and that one of the eight key criteria used for assessment in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card is our infrastructure’s resilience, or the ability to more quickly recover from significant weather and other hazard events.
To shore up our nation’s infrastructure resilience, we must establish a common definition and consistent means of assessing risk. Considering the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, our nation’s reliance on technology, and risks posed by non-natural disasters such as cyberattacks, building more resilient critical infrastructure systems is more important now than ever before.
One way to address this issue is to invest in risk reduction mechanisms at the federal, state, and local levels, including pre-disaster mitigation measures and in updating our nation’s flood maps. In fact, a January 2018 National Institute of Building Sciences report found that every $1 in federal government agency hazard mitigation spending saves the nation $6 in future disaster costs. Fortunately, both the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees included $250 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grant Program in their FY19 appropriations bill, which is on par with the FY18 enacted level, and the House included $262.5 million for FEMA’s flood mapping and risk analysis program, which is also on par with the FY18 enacted level.
As advocates for policies that reduce risk, protect the health of the public, and maximize the public interest – including cost considerations and resilient designs – ASCE has been supportive of efforts that achieve this goal, specifically the Obama-era Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) that was rescinded by President Trump through an Executive Order (EO) on August 15, 2017. As part of a larger coalition led by Pew, ASCE has been urging Congress and the Trump Administration to develop new flood risk management standards that would require any new federally funded infrastructure projects in a floodplain to consider and mitigate for flood disaster risk.
Earlier this year ASCE endorsed S. 1507, the State Flood Mitigation Revolving Fund Act, which was introduced by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). Based on the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, this bill would create a new state revolving fund to provide low-interest loans to states for flood mitigation projects such as elevations and flood proofing of public buildings, businesses, and residences; improvements to stormwater management; assistance to local residents who wish to move out of harm’s way; or converting frequently flooded areas into open space amenities.
For a further look at ASCE’s solutions to raise our nation’s infrastructure page, please see our full 2017 Infrastructure Report Card.