Are Federal Programs Making Our Coastal Communities Less Resilient?

The New York Times takes a serious look at the impact of the National Flood Insurance Program and the Stafford Act on coastal building and planning practices and finds the results troubling (to say the least).

While the article discusses the inequity of a system where the federal government spends so much on such a small percent of the total population (over $60,000 per resident of one island community since 1979), it rightly focuses on the real issue: The “rebuild to post-storm condition” mentality.

In a mind-numbing quote, one resident reports that when visiting a community flattened by Hurricane Frederic (1979), President Carter told them to “build everything back just like it was and send [me] the bill.”

While we may now know better, we still rarely do better. Quick example: some Vermont communities slammed by Irene last year rebuilt with bigger culverts, better able to handle storm events like Irene, but the federal government has been contesting the additional costs.

This isn’t a simple problem, and it isn’t going away. For anybody unfamiliar with why things are as they are, this is a quick must-read. For all of us who already lose sleep over this issue: read it because all your friends are going to ask you about it

As Coasts Rebuild and U.S. Pays, Repeatedly, the Critics Ask Why” (New York Times)