WASHINGTON – In light of severe storms and hurricanes in recent years, the RAND Corporation, a major national security think tank, offered a $50 billion master plan Wednesday for reducing flooding and damages in coastal areas. The funding to support such a plan, however, is still uncertain.
Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Irene and, most recently, Superstorm Sandy, have become increasingly frequent and costly. Yet grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that provide disaster preparedness were cut 43 percent in the last two years, according to published reports.
Jordan Fischbach, an associate policy researcher at RAND, presented several measures that Louisiana adopted in response to the hurricane season of 2005. These measures include coastal restoration, software tools to determine individual projects and building levees.
“[Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita] spurred the state into action,” Fischbach said.
Fischbach said a RAND master plan was passed unanimously by Louisiana legislature, and advocates similar plans for other coastal regions. He said Congress can apply lessons from Louisiana on a nationwide basis, although some areas still will need to be assessed as individual states.
“[It’s] an approach that has a lot of relevance for other regions… especially after Superstorm Sandy,” he said.
To cover the cost of the $50 billion plan, which is spread over 50 years, Fischbach said the first major increments would come from oil company BP as well as revenues derived from leasing oil and gas. Beyond that, Fischbach described the remaining costs as “an investment in some of these projects” that has not been taken on by any federal agency.
“Certainly there’s been federal investment in the past … but never at this scale,” he said. “From the federal perspective those are mainly unanswered questions.
“… There’s value to investment, even if we have to adapt in the future and start to retreat,” he said.