**We have updated our Guide to the Corps on our website.**
Nancy Pelosi wants an infrastructure bill that is ‘at least #1 trillion’
She continued that she would like to be ‘closer to #2 trillion.’ Such an enormous pot of money would rebuild traditional infrastructure nationwide for inland roads, bridges and school, but Pelosi also focused on upgrading outdated water systems and old roads that need to be updated for sea level rise and electric driverless vehicles. House T&I will take the lead, but with oversight from other committees such as Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources and the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. We’ll track this to see how much coastal we can get out of it. The bill would hopefully reduce some of nearly $1 trillion backlog of construction projects in the Corps of Engineers’ portfolio. The main question most will ask is how would we fund it? Pelosi noted that there are different ways to raise revenue. Both gas taxes and carbon taxes are possibilities.
How much do you think natural disasters cost the US in 2018? Click here to find out.
Guidance for implementing several sections of WRDA18 was released late last week. Here’s a summary of the most important ones from a coastal point of view:
- Sec. 1148: Beneficial Use of Sediment/Regional Sediment Management. The statutory language of this section got messed up in the sausage grinder of the congressional process. It says that for single applications of sediment using Section 204 of the Continuing Authorities Program, only a temporary easement is needed to facilitate placement of sediment. However, if such an easement is granted, that “project” is no longer eligible for future sediment placements using Section 204. The guidance notes that temporary easements (which in our experience are used to permit the placement of equipment related to the beneficial use) can currently be granted. However, the guidance goes on to note that Section 204 placements require “permanent conditions of public use and access. That is (regrettably) not news. The guidance goes on to direct District Commanders “to take into consideration” the restriction on the project being eligible for future placements under Section 204. It goes on to state that “Permanent easement or fee title for material placement areas must be acquired for a project in order for the “site” to remain eligible for future placements.” Before it got messed up, the intent of this provision was to require less than a permanent easement for beneficial use placements which are not likely to last more than a few years. Hopefully this can be corrected in the next WRDA.
- Sec. 1160: How Much Restoration Can You Get Under PL 84-99 (Section 103)? That’s the Corps emergency response authority. Beach nourishment projects are continuing construction, with periodic renourishments over 50 years. If a project gets hit by a storm between nourishments and is eligible for PL 84-99 (FCCE) assistance, how much sand should it get? Can it be modified using these funds to improve its effectiveness? Under the guidance, it can’t be modified to increase protection or expand its coverage. The Corps will provide enough sand to get the project back to its “design template” (the beach profile without sacrificial sand) unless its pre-storm condition is greater than that level. In such a case, the non-Federal sponsor can request the District Commander to consider restoring the project to its pre-storm profile. This evaluation can be done instead of a Project Information Report (PIR). If the evaluation determines that restoration to the pre-storm level “is not necessary to ensure adequate functioning of the project,” then the non-Federal sponsor will have to pay the additional cost. We’ve written about this before, but the bottom line is that if you repair to the minimum design template, that minimum amount of sand can be lost anytime from the day after the dredge leaves to a year after. It would be a lot more cost-effective to combine the “free” Federal repair money with cost-shared periodic nourishment funds. That avoids two separate mobilizations of dredges, savings millions of dollars. Congress is far more willing to spend the money post-disaster than prevent damages pre-disaster.
- Sec. 1153: Construction of Projects by Non-Federal Interests. If Congress has authorized construction of a water resources project and the non-Federal interest wants to proceed with the construction of that project, this guidance sets rules for applying for permits, NEPA compliance and other similar matters.
- Sec. 1161(b): Cost and Benefit Feasibility Assessment: No, this isn’t the provision relative to a study of the BCR. It’s one that allows the non-Federal sponsor to pay the Corps to repair or restore a project (flood risk management or coastal storm risk management) whose costs exceed its [remaining] benefits as long as the non-Federal Interest pays for the excess costs.
- Sec, 1161(a): Studies to Extend 50-year beach nourishment projects: This part of the guidance for Sec. 1161 simply restates the statutory provision that these projects remain eligible for funding until Sept. 30, 2022. These are called Section 1037 studies. Has one been finished yet? Let us know.
- Sec. 1166: Advanced Funds. This guidance rescinds ER 1165-2-30 and provides new procedures related to non-Federal sponsors who want to advance or contribute funds. It also states that the Corps “shall ensure, to the maximum extent practicable” that advancing or contributing funds does not provide an unfair advantage compared to those who don’t. These are my words; the guidance naturally uses less forthright words.
- Sec. 1167: Costs in Excess of Federal Participation Limit: This applies to Section 14 emergency streamline and shoreline protection projects and establishes a procedure for enabling such projects to exceed their cost limits if the additional cost is paid by the non-Federal sponsor.
- Sec. 1149: Inclusion of Alternative Measures for Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration. The Corps is currently required to include natural and nature-based features in the planning process of only beach nourishment projects. This section of WRDA18 expands that requirement to studies for aquatic ecosystem restoration done under CAP Section 206 authority. [Maybe the next WRDA should expand this requirement to all types of Corps-designed projects.]
- Sec. 1115: Property Acquisition. This section of WRDA18 required the Corps to consider “the minimum interest in real property” necessary to support the project. The guidance states that the Corps is already doing this.
If you want copies of the guidance, go here.
New FEMA grants are available by region
You can find out which region you are in from the map below
The FY 2019 Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG) will provide federal funds to assist state, local, tribal, and territorial emergency management agencies to obtain the resources required to support the National Preparedness Goals (the Goals) associated mission areas and core capabilities. The EMPG program supports the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Mission to Strengthen National Preparedness and Resilience. Allocations vary by region.
The Nature Conservancy has released a new financing tool – Blue Bonds
The program leverages $1.6 billion in upfront philanthropy for future mitigation of anthropogenic effects on our oceans.
To encourage nations to protect their own waters, Blue Bonds offer the opportunity to refinance a portion of a nation’s current debt to alleviate the costs of investing in ocean conservation. The savings that result from refinancing are invested directly into a trust fund to feed conservation efforts. Nation’s must agree to protect 30% of their ocean area in exchange for a restructured debt.
Hurricane Michael was a Category 4
However, after studying the data further, it should have been recognized as a Category 5. While some qualifiers, such as a difference of 5 mph in wind speed, don’t seem like much, the energy of the storm was great enough to be considered at category 5. Dr. Michael Brennan, Branch Chief of the Hurricane Specialist Unit in Miami, said that Michael's central pressure of 919 millibars (mb) at landfall is the third lowest on record for a landfalling U. S. hurricane since reliable records began in 1900. As the pressure lowers in the center of the storm, winds increase.
Last season, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center estimated a 75% chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season would be near- or above-normal. While there was some radio silence in the Atlantic during some weeks, they weren’t wrong. Researchers from Colorado State University are predicting a slightly below-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2019, citing the cause as a weak El-Niño year.
NOAA will release its forecast May 23rd. NOAA then updates its forecast again in August to account for any changes that have affected predictions. NOAA’s outlooks are issued with a 70% confidence level that hurricane activity will fall within our predicted ranges, and they are accurate 70% of the time.
EXTRA – How can insuring a reef ensure a resilient future? Find out here out Swiss Re insured the Mesoamerican coral reef system.