Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, a Democrat running for county executive, said that if elected, she would ensure that taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects were built to be more resilient at a time when climate change is impacting the environment.
At an Aug. 16 news conference on the Long Beach boardwalk, Curran told reporters that future infrastructure projects should take into account rising sea levels and the various effects of climate change, such as flooding.
The announcement came on the heels of the Trump administration’s revocation of a rule put into effect under President Obama that required taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects to consider such environmental factors and build above the flood plain.
The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, signed by Obama in 2015, aimed to avoid the mounting costs associated with storms such as Hurricane Sandy. The standard took into account sea level rise caused by climate change and the flood risk that gradually increases for coastal populations and their infrastructure, according to The Washington Post.
United States taxpayers paid $260 billion to repair flood-related damage from 1980 to 2013, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We know all too well the very real effects of climate change,” Curran said. “We saw firsthand the destruction brought by [Hurricane] Sandy. … We have to protect taxpayer-funded projects or we’ll be asking those same taxpayers to be paying much more down the road.”
Curran emphasized, though, that the rule reversal would not affect the ability to keep rules in place on a local level. She explained that Trump’s order focuses on projects with federal reimbursements.
“Long Beach residents know firsthand what happens when you don’t build to accommodate climate change and flooding,” Curran told the Herald. “When we’re using taxpayer money to do building and infrastructure, we should make sure that money is being spent in a way that we won’t have to pay for it all again in the future, and that it can accommodate rising sea levels.”
City Manager Jack Schnirman, a Democrat running for county comptroller, joined Curran and supported her pledge, citing the boardwalk as one of the city’s large infrastructure projects.
“[During] the fight that it took to get the funding for this boardwalk — that was ultimately federal money — the federal government’s rules got in the way,” Schnirman said. “The federal government said you have to build it back as was — build it back in a way that will get destroyed again. That doesn’t make any sense. That’s not a good investment.”
The boardwalk, which Schnirman said was the biggest construction project in the county in the past five years, cost $40 million to build in a way that “will last a lifetime.”
“We could’ve built it the old way, which apparently is what the president of the United States is now suggesting,” Schnirman continued. “It would’ve cost the federal government $36 million to build this boardwalk the old way, just to see it destroyed again. That makes no sense.”
Schnirman also noted the city’s need to build transportation infrastructure in the future. “It’s the only way that as taxpayers, we’re going to get the bang for our buck that we deserve,” he said. “And today we see a terrible step back by the president of the United States. We can do better.”
“We cannot and will not allow Donald Trump’s war on the environment, and his denial of the reality of climate change to put our communities in danger,” Curran said. “Upholding this rule is the safe thing to do, it’s the economical thing to do, and it’s the best thing we can do for Nassau County.”