It seems as though the politicians in Washington have been talking about our nation’s crumbling infrastructure for many years. Recently, it was former President Barack Obama who made grand promises of “shovel ready projects.” For years, the Washington elite have relished the vision of big crews in hardhats all over the countryside steamrolling new roads and erecting sturdier bridges.
We have heard promises from politicians before to improve our infrastructure. Both parties make bold, bipartisan promises about rebuilding America. Yet as we approach the 2018 election cycle, roads are still crumbling, bridges are still collapsing and politicians are just talking.
Since we are only talking about infrastructure rather than doing anything about it, let’s talk about sea-level rise and the infrastructure demands it places on city, state and the federal government. America’s sea level has risen 6.5 inches since 1950, almost half of that rise occurring in the last 20 years. This has resulted in a 200 percent increase in flooding, with even higher rates of increase in places like Virginia (250 percent) and Florida (400 percent).
Regular, worsening flooding can create a variety of problems. Some are nuisances; disrupted commutes, water in your basement. These seem to have always been with us and are sometimes just costs associated with choosing to live near the water.
Others are more serious; severe road damage requiring emergency repair, underground pressure on sewage systems, flooding of whole neighborhoods and their homes. These consequences are developing into increasingly dangerous and costly burdens on more and more communities around the country. Many communities in the Gulf Coast, for instance, have raised roads in low-lying areas, installed new drainage and pump systems, and relocated fresh water wells to prepare for inevitable flooding due to sea-level rise. Each of these is a major project. More and more cities, towns and counties are being forced to take expensive preventive measures.
Many scientific claims lack consensus and serve as proxies for ongoing, even endless, partisan battles. But efforts to curb sea-level rise have bipartisan support in Congress. Republican Rep. Carlos Cubelo of Florida and Democrat Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts are working together on the Flood Protection Act.
And there have already been successes: a sea-level rise study proposed by Republican senators Tim Scott of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida was put into last year’s bipartisan “Waters Resources Development Act” that became law in 2016 with Democratic and Republican support.
These folks know what the communities they represent are facing. They recognize sea-level rise has had serious effects on coastal states, especially in the southeastern United States. As the problem continues to grow, it would be wise for legislators from these states to join the cause of battling sea-level rise.
Congress should get serious about infrastructure investment in local communities, not just for roads and bridges, but to combat sea-level rise as well. Helping communities pay for preventive projects will be cheaper in the long run than routinely bailing them out in emergencies. According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, every $1 in pre-disaster prevention can save $4 in emergency costs.
We could have fights about what’s causing sea-level rise. Lord knows many of the politicians in Washington would love to just scream at one another on some cable news show about whose fault it is. In the meantime, real costs are being incurred by communities nationwide and real, life-threatening dangers are becoming more commonplace in more peoples’ lives.
Zach Almond is a former chairman of the North Carolina College Republicans. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.