A task force mandated by President Barack Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and charged with developing a strategy for rebuilding areas damaged by the devastating storm has issued a report recommending 69 policy initiatives, most focused on a simple warning: Plan for future storms in an age of climate change and rising sea levels.
The report released Aug. 19 by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force says coastal communities should assume floods are going to happen more frequently and realize that spending more now on protective measures could save money later.
It calls for development of a more advanced electrical grid less likely to be crippled in a crisis, and the creation of better planning tools and standards for communities rebuilding storm-damaged areas.
“Decision-makers at all levels must recognize that climate change and the resulting increase in risks from extreme weather have eliminated the option of simply building back to outdated standards and expecting better outcomes after the next extreme event,” the report says.
On one vital issue related to insurance, the task force had no easy solution.
It noted that because of reforms to the financially distressed National Flood Insurance Program that began before the storm, many thousands of people who live in low-lying areas will likely see significant premium increases if they don’t lift their homes up on pilings. The task force said that for many homeowners, both options will be unaffordable. It recommended further study of that dilemma.
Some of the group’s key recommendations are already being implemented, including the creation of new flood-protection standards for major infrastructure projects built with federal money and the promotion of a sea-level modeling tool that will help builders and engineers predict where flooding might be an issue in the future.