States brace for long-term flood fight as damages mount

  • People stand at the edge of a flooded road in Plattsmouth, Neb. Although President Donald Trump has expressed doubt about climate change, even calling it a hoax, a National Climate Assessment released last year by the White House warned that natural disasters in the U.S. are worsening because of global warming. AP file

  • FILE - In this March 16, 2019 file photo, Nebraska Department of Roads crews block the flooded Highway 34 that connects Platteview, Neb., to I-29 in Iowa. After devastating flooding in 2019, Iowa put 15 million into a special fund to help local governments recover and guard against future floods. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Nati Harnik

  • FILE - In this Thursday, March 14, 2019 file photo, thick slabs of ice surround a structure in Fremont, Neb., after the Platte River flooded its banks. For years, states have relied heavily on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay the bulk of recovery efforts for damaged public infrastructure. While that remains the case, more states have been debating ways to supplement federal dollars with their own money dedicated not just to rebuilding but also to avoiding future flood damage. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Nati Harnik

  • FILE - In this Friday, March 15, 2019 file photo, a bridge brought down by flood waters is seen near Norfolk, Neb. The Associated Press tallied about 1.2 billion of damage in 24 states based on preliminary assessments of public infrastructure categories established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The tally includes damage to roads and bridges, utilities, water control facilities, public buildings and equipment, and parks. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) Nati Harnik

  • In this Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 photo, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worker Ron Allen uses a GPS tool to survey the extent of damage where a levee failed along the Missouri River near Saline City, Mo. Efforts to fight rising waters may turn out to be only down payments on what is shaping up as a long-term battle against floods, which are forecast to become more frequent and destructive as global temperatures rise. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

  • In this Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 photo, a survey crew for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crosses 20-foot-deep flood waters that remain after a levee failed along the Missouri River near Saline City, Mo. The Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost 1 billion to repair flood damaged levees in the Missouri River basin alone. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

  • This July 31, 2019 photo shows flood damage in the hallway of the Jefferson City, Mo., airport terminal after nearly 4 feet of floodwaters from the Missouri River receded. Preliminary assessments compiled by The Associated Press have identified about 1.2 billion in damage to roads, bridges, buildings, utilities and other public infrastructure in 24 states from the floods, storms and tornadoes that occurred during the first half of 2019. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb) David A. Lieb

  • In this Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 photo, corn stalks litter a dried-out field that was flooded after a nearby levee failed along the Missouri River near Saline City, Mo. The Corps of Engineers estimates it will cost 1 billion to repair levees damaged by this year's flooding in the Missouri River basin alone. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

  • In this July 27, 2019, photo, a bridge over a creek near the Missouri River remains inaccessible well over a month after floodwaters washed out its connection to a rural road in Callaway County, Missouri. Preliminary assessments show that flooding and storms caused more than 1.1 billion of damage to public infrastructure in 22 states during the first half of 2019, including at least 700 million of damage to roads and bridges. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb) David A. Lieb

  • In this July 27, 2019, photo, signs block access to a bridge on a rural road in Callaway County, Missouri, on July 27, 2019. The road's approach to the bridge was washed out by flooding that began in late May and extended into early July. Preliminary assessments show that floods and storms caused more than 1.1 billion of damage to public infrastructure in 22 states during the first half of 2019, including at least 700 million of damage to roads and bridges. (AP Photo/David A. Lieb) David A. Lieb

  • In this Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 photo, dead grass remains knocked over after flood waters flowed over a broken levee along the Missouri River near Saline City, Mo. Preliminary assessments compiled by The Associated Press have identified about 1.2 billion in damage to roads, bridges, buildings, utilities and other public infrastructure in 24 states from the floods, storms and tornadoes that occurred during the first half of 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

Associated Press
Published: 8/12/2019 1:52:33 PM

After devastating flooding this year, Iowa funneled $15 million into a special fund to help local governments recover and guard against future floods. Missouri budgeted more money to fight rising waters, including $2 million to help buy a moveable floodwall for a historic Mississippi River town that has faced flooding in all but one of the past 20 years.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced $10 million to repair damaged levees while creating a task force to study a system that in places has fallen into disrepair though years of neglect.

The states’ efforts might turn out to be only down payments on what is shaping up as a long-term battle against floods, which are expected to become more frequent and destructive with the rise in global temperatures.

“What is going on in the country right now is that we are having basically an awakening to the necessity and importance of waterway infrastructure,” said Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican who has been pushing to improve the state’s levees.

The movement is motivated not just by this year’s major floods in the Midwest, but by more than a decade of repeated flooding from intense storms such as Hurricane Harvey, which dumped 60 inches of rain on southeastern Texas in 2017. In November, Texas voters will decide whether to create a constitutionally dedicated fund for flood-control projects, jump-started with $793 million from state savings.

For years, states have relied heavily on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay the bulk of recovery efforts for damaged public infrastructure. While that remains the case, more states have been debating ways to supplement federal dollars with their own money dedicated not just to rebuilding but also to avoiding future flood damage. Those efforts may include relocating homes , elevating roads and bridges, strengthening levees and creating natural wetlands that could divert floodwaters from the places where people live and work.

“There are states who are realizing that they have an obligation to step up here, that flooding is really a state and local problem, and the federal taxpayer is not going to totally bail us out. We need to be thinking ahead and helping ourselves,” said Larry Larson, a former director and senior policy adviser for the Association of State Floodplain Managers.

Although President Donald Trump has expressed doubt about climate change, even calling it a hoax, a National Climate Assessment released last year by the White House warned that natural disasters in the U.S. are worsening because of global warming. The report cited a growing frequency and intensity of storms, heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

Instead of pointing at climate change, governors and lawmakers in some Midwestern states have blamed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for worsening floods by the way it manages water along its network of dams.

Preliminary assessments compiled by the Associated Press have identified about $1.2 billion in damage to roads, bridges, buildings, utilities and other public infrastructure in 24 states from the floods, storms and tornadoes that occurred during the first half of 2019. Those states also have incurred costs of about $175 million in emergency response efforts and debris cleanup.




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