Federally-backed rebuilding of public buildings often leaves them vulnerable to future storms

FEMA dollars pay for reconstruction, but local decision-makers ignore climate change impacts.

October 18, 2018 |

Analysis of federal data by the New York Times found that FEMA’s public assistance program has paid for many rebuild-in-place projects that leave the structures just as defenseless against future storms.

One example is the Plaquemines Parish Detention Center, a new $105 million jail, in Louisiana that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Although the building now hovers 19 feet above a marsh perched atop concrete pillars, it must be evacuated before any major storm because it was rebuilt on flood-prone land that could become essentially an island after a flood.

Rather than relocate damaged structures to higher ground, local officials often choose to replicate the past, ignoring new climate realities, theTimes report says. The federal government has actually taken steps back from requirements that could prompt rebuilding projects to beef up resiliency.

President Trump last year rescinded an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that required consideration of climate science in the design of federally funded projects. That could have forced some buildings to be elevated higher. In March, FEMA released a four-year strategic plan that removed previous mentions of climate change and sea-level rise.

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