There is a bit going on here in today’s update - Brett Kavanaugh cleared the senate, making way for WRDA. The DRRA was signed into law. Trump’s building and rebuilding, but not rebuilding ‘smart.’ DOI personnel appear to be screening keywords that highlight human effects on climate change. The Corps’ NJ Back Bays discussion still ongoing, and the City of Norfolk CSRM Feasibility Report has been released. Two new Corps-related CRS reports, a UN report on climate change and a report from the California Coastal Commission. Stick around to the bottom for a BONUS!
The Senate has concluded its confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, and has made WRDA a next priority – which is scheduled to be on the Senate floor Tuesday. Stay tuned for an all-inclusive briefing on the new bill once it has passed the Senate. To prevent further delay, Senator Mitch McConnel used some clever debate to fill out the remaining amendments in the bill’s amendment tree. The Senator’s first amendment clarified the date of enactment to the day after it is signed, then the next amendment delayed the date of enactment by two days, and the following amendment delayed the date of enactment to three days, and so forth until all available amendments were used. Debate is now limited to one hour per Senator, which could keep the bill on the floor for a number of days depending on who may want to hold it up. Previously we had Senator Burr of North Carolina requesting a reauthorization of the Lands and Conservation Act.
The Disaster Reform Recovery Act (DRRA), Division D of the FAA reauthorization, supports communities in rebuilding post-disaster. The DRRA was signed into law last week and provides assistance for regions with an emergency declaration on or after January 1st 2016. Recipients of Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) have ‘Additional Activities’ available to them such as installing debris traps to prevent erosion, installing warning signs, and mitigating windstorm damage by replacing utility poles. New guidance will also be issued for evacuation routes. Barrier islands are often connected to mainland via one or two causeways and during storms and flood events, these roads are often inundated, leaving residents on the coast to fend for themselves until they can leave the island or assistance can reach them. Of particular importance are the abundant populations of elderly that live along the coast with limited access to the mainland and resources during storms and floods.
Last August, Mr. Trump issued an executive order revoking an Obama Federal flood standard that required storm-damaged federally funded infrastructure to be rebuilt to a higher elevation. The Obama-era requirement, the Flood Risk Management Standard, required that infrastructure projects be elevated between 2 to 3 feet above a 100-year flood line with higher priority buildings reaching closer to the 3-foot mark. The order was intended to remove policy barriers that would hinder Trump’s plan to invest heavily in US infrastructure. The Administration prepped the order before Harvey impacted Texas and expressed regret following the devastating storm. Rep. Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Panetta (D-CA) hope to have a bill pushed through Congress that revokes this order and codifies into law a better approach to ‘rebuilding smart’ post disaster.
Political Interference at the Department of the Interior– Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) led 13 Senators in urging DOI Inspector General Mary Kendall to investigate political interference in scientific research and communications at the Department. A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting suggested that DOI employees have been editing out key terms and phrases that support anthropogenic effects on climate change. A letter was sent to Mary Kendall that requests she monitor and investigate ‘potential alterations to scientific reports, documents or communications produced by the DOI.’ Continue reading below about the UN’s consensus on the anthropogenic effects on climate change.
The Corps –
New Jersey Back Bays are a feature that are both a blessing and a curse. The back bays provide significant recreation – fishing, boating, crabbing, their simple beauty – but during Sandy they were a vulnerability in the State’s storm surge protection. NJ’s beach nourishment program is one of the strongest in the nation, protecting billions of dollars of real estate along the coast from waves and storm surge, but the back bays allow water in from ‘the back door.’ The Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are working together under an authority to study the back bays to address this issue. A recent meeting discussed strategies to prevent back bay flooding, in which seawater overtops bulkheads on the bayfront and spills water into streets. Some of these strategies involved storm surge barriers, tide gates, levees, floodwalls, drainage improvements and nature based features like living shorelines. While this study originally requested $18 million to study the whole State’s back bays, the final figure only came to around $3 million, with officials confused over how an entire states coast can be studied with just $3 million. With a naturally changing and dynamics coastline, how do you think NJ can address the back bays issue?
The Corps has released it’s City of Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management (CSRM) Feasibility Study for review and comment. The study is intended to identify flood risks and develop and evaluate mitigation measures for the City. Click here to read the report.
New CRS Reports on the Corps of Engineers – These two documents will provide a brief history of previous WRDA bills, funding resolutions, and supplemental appropriations. If you’re new to the Corps process, you should be sure to read these. You can find them anytime on our website, https://www.waterlog.net/coastal-library-and-resources or below:
- Annual and Supplemental Appropriations: Issues in Congress
- Water Resource Authorization and Project Delivery Process
Sea Level Rise & Climate Change–
The California Coastal Commission warns of 10 feet of sea level rise by 2100. Earlier reports settled at 6 feet by 2100, but the potential for rapid ice loss could result in an extreme scenario of 10.2 feet of sea level rise. The guidance issued does not mandate changes to meet projections, but complaints were still reported by a few who reiterated that there is a low probability of the worst case scenario. The lower estimate calls for San Francisco to see 1 foot by 2050 and 3.4 feet by 2100. The report can be viewed here.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the effects of a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures. The report is statistically sound, evidenced by numerical references and modern science with underlying agreement and confidence levels. We’ve linked here to the summary for policymakers. The report highlights that climate change catastrophes, such as flooding, drought, extreme heat, intensified storms, crop loss, species loss, and loss of coral reefs are no long hypothetical scenarios. The global temperature has risen 1°C since the 19th century and that trend will continue unless a historic reduction in fossil fuel consumption occurs. These small changes are having a big impact on our ecosystems, which will in turn have a big impact on our economy. It was just recently that a Nobel prize was awarded to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer for their work on climate change and economic growth.
Stay tuned for our briefing on the Water Resources Development Act of 2018.
Last week we gave a presentation on our concept of Regionality to the New Jersey Coastal Coalition. They host ‘Tidal Flooding Talk’ with Dan Skeldon, a local meteorologist who really knows his stuff. The podcasts and videos cover a range of flood related topics that will help you understand coastal weather systems and planning for emergencies. Click here to subscribe.