Association of State Floodplain Managers makes resilience proposals for Houston
- Published: Thursday, 31 August 2017 13:24
ASFPM (Association of State Floodplain Managers) is urging the Federal government to rebuild Houston with flood resilience in mind, following Hurricane Harvey flooding.
In a statement ASFPM says that a ‘common thread runs through most images coming out of Houston right now: hospitals, airports, railroads, roads, bridges and underpasses were allowed to be built in areas that exposed them to flooding. When Houston rebuilds - as it should - every penny of federal funding (aka taxpayer money) should go toward rebuilding to higher standards (up and/or out of the way of the next flood)’.
Houston, which is largely flat, has experienced several recent major floods. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 caused nearly $5 billion in damage. The Memorial Day flood event of 2015 dumped almost 12 inches of rain in 10 hours. And last year, 1,200 people were rescued after a flood on Tax Day. And each time, the American taxpayer has paid for structures to be rebuilt. It must be stressed, says ASFPM, that they were often not rebuilt to be more resilient to the next flood.
“The devastation happening in Houston should not be allowed to happen again,” says The Association of State Floodplain Managers. “While this flood is devastating and deadly, it is also an opportunity to do things differently.”
ASFPM makes the following resilience suggestions:
Buildings and infrastructure that has been repeatedly rebuilt should be bought out and removed from the floodplain whenever possible. Further development of that land should not be allowed. It could instead be turned into green space such as parks (an excellent asset to any city and can serve double duty to help retain and absorb stormwater). This is especially true with repetitive flood loss properties, in deep floodplains and areas below dams that are inundated due to the operation of the emergency spillways.
Critical facilities such as hospitals, fire and police stations, nursing homes and schools should not be rebuilt in the floodplain. When there are no alternatives, these facilities should be elevated (without fill) above flood levels from these extreme floods, not just the 1 percent chance flood, and required to have a flood response plan that addresses evacuations in these type of events.
Transportation infrastructure (roads, bridges, underpasses, etc.) should be rebuilt one, two or even three feet above the flood of record to ensure dry land access during flood events, and taxpayer money should not be wasted by having to rebuild after the next flood.
“Building to higher standards after a natural disaster is not a novel or ‘outside of the box’ idea,” concludes ASFPM. “The federal government implemented it after Hurricane Sandy by simply requiring that any use of federal taxpayer money to rebuild must be elevated 1 foot above the 1 percent chance flood. Executive Order 13690 and the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard was enacted in January 2015. These new standards would have made communities more resilient to the next flood and protected taxpayer investments by requiring higher standards for projects with federal funding (such as building 2-3 foot above the base flood elevation or not building within the 500-year flood level). This ensures taxpayers are not rebuilding infrastructure time and time again after flood disasters. This higher standard was repealed on August 15. ASFPM urges that the FFRMS be reinstated for the rebuilding of Houston.”www.floods.org