Hurricane Season is Really Here
It took since May 20th, before Hurricane season started, to get our first named storm of the official hurricane season. Tropical Storm Barry was upgraded to hurricane status as it made landfall, leaving parts of Louisiana under a foot of water and more than 150,000 residents without power. While the National Hurricane Center rated Barry as a category 1, that system is antiquated. Accuweather’s RealImpact model categorized the storm as a level 2 storm. Stay up to date at the National Hurricane Center www.nhc.noaa.gov .
WRDA Hearing – Implementation Status
ASBPA Testifies – Testimony HERE
Derek Brockbank, Executive Director of the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association, testified on the Implementation of WRDA in a hearing last week. He acknowledged that our beaches are engineered, and the consequences of damming and fortifying soft and natural systems into hardened engineering structures, like levees and riverbanks (which prevent sediment from flowing back into our natural systems), are a nationwide problem - an enormous shortage of available sediment.
ASBPA promoted the use of Regional Sediment Management, another Corps program we consistently highlight here on WaterLog (Thank you, Derek!). ASBPA encouraged the Corps to do more with its sediment, pointing out that only 38% of the 214 million cubic yards that are dredged annually is beneficially reused. While we don’t have an exact figure for what is used onshore for beaches, the Corps should certainly strive for 100% beneficial reuse of appropriate quality sediments.
ASBPA also advocated for reformed BCR calculations. Since BCR calculations currently are designed to maximize flood risk benefits, projects ultimately will not be designed to maximize other benefits; for example, ecological and social benefits are simply left off the table.
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, RD James, broke from his written testimony to deliver a message about the importance of the Corps’ non-federal partners. He asserted the importance of improving the civil works program and working with “the locals, the people on the ground,” and having the districts engage partners better by Inviting partners to meetings to be part of the process and the decisions that the Corps makes.
Climate Resilience Highway Bill Coming Before August Recess
Legislators on both sides of the isle are working towards a 5-year reauthorization (instead of short-term reauthorizations) of the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) to enable state and local planners to do their jobs effectively (to plan!). Short term reauthorizations like we see in programs like the NFIP or even single-year budgeting for the Corps leaves some uncertainty in the hands of planners who want to know what funding, regulations and policies are affecting their work today and for the foreseeable future. The push for a 5-year extension comes from Chairman Barasso of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Ranking Democrat Senator Tom Carper and other Democrats are pushing for resilience from extreme weather in addition to green initiatives such as low-carbon construction, electric charging stations and other climate friendly innovations that can be built into the bill to reduce emissions.
3 Democrats Aim to Declare Climate Emergency
In an attempt to give climate action the urgency it needs, three democrats are teaming up to spell out climate change as an emergency. The legislation (HCONRES 52) is a Concurrent Resolution, meaning it has no force of law other than expressing that (if passed into law) the consensus among Members of Congress is that climate change can be discussed as an emergency. No Republicans have signed onto the bill yet. However, recently we have seen Republicans and Democrats joining together as members on both side of the isle are recognizing that climate change is a bipartisan issue that affects all parties and citizens throughout the US. Will it pass? Probably not, but these types of efforts are important in demonstrating that some Members of Congress are willing to take a stand for the nation, and the globe.
Actions on Federal Bills
Disaster: House T&I Committee reported out bill HR 1311 that amends the Robert T Stafford Disaster Relief Act to allow the President to direct the FEMA Administrator to make, under an emergency declaration, contributions up to 10% of the aggregate total of FEMA grants to meet unmet needs.
NJ Introduces Research Center
The Corps of Engineers has estimated that damages from tidal flooding and rising seas will cost the State of New Jersey roughly $1.6 billion annually. A grant has been given to the Stockton University Coastal Research Center to build a 4,000-8,000 square-foot incubator to allow state and local officials, the Corps of Engineers, nonprofits, Stockton researchers and other entities to look for ways to protect NJ’s valuable coastal assets from sea level rise.
NJ Beaches still without dunes
Three towns that were impacted by Superstorm Sandy still don’t have dunes. Why? They got an exception because their beaches were large enough already, because a private beach installed a steel retaining wall under the sand instead of building dunes, or because dunes simply costed too much to build. Ok-ok, but what is the real reason? Private beach clubs and homeowners didn’t want to look at dunes, or allow public access – both are requirements if the federal government is going to contribute to a beach nourishment project.
Now the federal government is rethinking its position, given that it is liable for funding 65% of future nourishments. NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe doesn’t want a broken dune system spanning the coast. Protection should be equal everywhere, and a lot is at risk.