Growing Returns

New Army Corps guidelines will expand natural infrastructure to reduce flood risk and more

This year has brought devastating flooding in the Netherlands, Germany, China, the U.S. and elsewhere. Globally, over 2.2 billion people are exposed to flooding, and that number is growing.

New research indicates the proportion of people living in floodplains since 2000 has increased by 20% to 24%, and climate change is further increasing flood risk with rising sea levels, more intense storms and extreme rainfall events. We need urgent action to protect people from these growing risks.

To this end, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) just released their “International Guidelines on the use of Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF) for Flood Risk Management.” Here’s why that’s a big deal.

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3 ways Virginia can continue to advance flood resilience statewide

Virginians are already seeing the impacts of climate change, from sea level rise along our coastlines to increased rainfall statewide. Without action, Virginians can expect $4.1 billion in annual losses to residential, commercial and public structures by 2080, with 171,000  acres of tidal marsh at risk of disappearing.

To better understand this risk, EDF worked with Virginia Conservation Network partners to release a policy paper that outlines Virginia’s flood risk and presents opportunities to build resilience.

Additionally, the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine recently released a report analyzing climate change impacts on Virginia’s coastal areas and offering specific ways to address them.

The sentiment of these two analyses is the same: Climate change is here, and we must act quickly to build resilience for our communities.

Here are three of the top recommendations for state leaders to take an equitable and comprehensive approach to flood resilience to protect Virginia’s communities, ecosystems, infrastructure and economy.

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3 ways New York and New Jersey can address flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, bringing a path of destruction to many of the state’s coastal communities.

As the storm moved northeast, Ida brought record rainfall, to many states, including New York and New Jersey where devastating floods caused loss of life and millions in damages. The region has not experienced a storm on this scale since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

And climate change is increasing flood risk with rainfall.

According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, the heaviest rains in the Northeast already produce 55% more rain compared to the 1950s and could increase another 40% by 2100.

As the region begins recovery efforts, here are three actions that New York and New Jersey leaders can take to reduce climate-fueled flood risk.

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5 ways federal policymakers can bring equity into flood risk reduction

Flooding remains the costliest, most deadly natural disaster in the U.S., causing more than $1 trillion in damages since 1980.

As climate change continues to fuel more intense hurricanes, sea level rise and heavier rain events, more Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before. And federal resources to protect communities from flooding are not provided to all communities equitably.

This gap in protection is a direct result of unintentional, but consequential flaws in the current cost-benefit analyses that agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use for flood protection projects.

Here are a few ways policymakers and coastal planners can help adjust cost-benefit analyses to expand access to flood protection and achieve more equitable results.

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4 strategies for policymakers to get more natural infrastructure in the ground, fast

Climate change is fueling increased flood risk across our nation’s coastal regions and floodplains. 

States and local communities are turning to natural infrastructure as a key solution to build long-term flood resilience. Natural and nature-based features like wetlands, dunes and reefs offer multiple protective benefits — from absorbing stormwater, to minimizing the shock of storm surge to reducing flood severity. 

However, identifying funding for natural infrastructure projects is not always straightforward.  

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Sea level rise threatens Miami’s future. Here’s how the Army Corps can help keep Florida, Florida.

Florida residents are on the frontlines of climate change, already facing sea level rise and increasing storm intensity. 

This is especially evident in Miami, due to its low-lying topography, porous limestone, dense coastal development and encroaching seas.  

To address these threats, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) produced the Miami-Dade Back Bay Coastal Storm Risk Management study. This multibillion-dollar proposal contains traditional, hardened infrastructure projects, including a massive seawall that would extend across Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami, reaching up to 20 feet in some places.

The proposal has received significant pushback from the public and stakeholders who are concerned about negative impacts to the environment, economy and quality of life.  

As the Corps seeks to address flood vulnerability in Miami and elsewhere, here are three ways the agency can reduce risk while also preserving the natural beauty of Florida’s coastal communities.

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Hurricane season is here. We need a national plan to protect our coastal communities.

The Atlantic hurricane season is underway as many coastal areas still recover from an endless barrage of storms last year that culminated in the most active hurricane season on record. With climate change, we can expect to see more intense hurricanes, leaving many communities at risk. 

In fact, a new report indicates that as many as 32 million U.S. homes and $8.5 trillion in assets are vulnerable to hurricane damage. 

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Virginia is taking bold climate action to address flood risk across the state

Climate change poses a significant threat to Virginia’s communities, infrastructure and economy. The state has the highest rates of sea level rise on the Atlantic seaboard with more than 34,000 buildings and 534 square miles of coastal land at risk of flooding by 2060, while more intense rainfall is also increasing flood risk statewide. 

Virginia’s state leadership is moving diligently to mitigate current and future flood threats by funding and implementing risk reduction and resilience projects across the commonwealth. 

Here’s how the state is tackling its flood risk problem with thoughtful planning and long-term funding.  Read More »

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New York’s environmental bond can deliver lasting resilience and create jobs

New York State, like the rest of the country, is suffering from compounding economic and public health crises as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, the state remains increasingly vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise.

A new report released this week by AECOM, the world’s premiere infrastructure firm, and Rebuild by Design, a community-focused organization advocating for resilient infrastructure, offers hope for recovery for the Empire State as it demonstrates how investments in the environment can help New York not only build lasting climate resilience but also create jobs at a time when they are desperately needed. Read More »

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4 ways to reduce disproportionate flood risk and build resilience for all communities

More Americans are at risk from flooding than ever before, and that risk is growing rapidly as climate change fuels more intense hurricanes and rainfall, and as sea level rise threatens coastal communities across the country.   

However, flood risk is not equally distributed. In this country, we have a flood risk gap that places low-income communities and communities of color at higher risk from flooding. Systemic inequities compound underlying risks and drive disproportionate impacts from climate change to these communities. This gap is visible in many coastal areas, where communities of extreme wealth and poverty exist within a few square miles, yet have unequal protections against storms, flooding and sea level rise.  Read More »

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