In recent years, many communities in rural Missouri have been gravely impacted by repeated flooding, including our own. We see high waters ravage our homes and businesses, only to recover and watch the cycle happen all over again. A lot of this just comes with the territory; we need to live close to the bodies of water that have a risk of flooding. As any good rural resident knows, however, it’s best to be prepared for disaster. That means putting in the work today to mitigate future disasters, which also speeds up the recovery time.
Be prepared: This is just common sense to us. And it really should be the common practice of government policy. But for decades, that just has not been the case.
Instead, the federal government has continued to engage in a cycle of investing money in building projects in flood-risk areas, only to see those projects destroyed by floods and then paying to repair those projects. It is a cycle of “build, rinse, repeat” that is devastating our communities and the taxpayer’s dime. Something has to be done to reform federal flood practices.
Thankfully, the Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act does just that. This vital piece of legislation requires the government to update its flood data and requires taking flood risk into account when deciding on a building project. One huge impact of this legislation is that it requires the government to prepare for flooding by investing in disaster-resistant building methods. This means when the government funds an infrastructure project — such as a road or a bridge — it uses current best practices to make the project as disaster-resistant as possible. This way, when disasters do happen, the building can withstand some of the impact, which saves time and costs on recovery.
We know firsthand how tough recovery can be. When floods inundate communities, they can bring local economies to a halt — causing extended periods of power or clean water outages, closing schools, shuttering businesses and blocking access to medical facilities. The Flood Resiliency and Taxpayer Savings Act can reduce these impacts by building infrastructure right the first time, enhancing the ability of communities to weather future storms.
The act also uses smart, nature-based solutions to mitigate floods and to protect our communities. These include techniques and ideas such as preservation or restoration of wetlands, rivers or green space, which can be cost-effective strategies to reduce flood risk. The act puts nature to work for our communities by ensuring that these nature-based solutions are included among the menu of mitigation approaches.
Furthermore, this bill only applies to federal structures or projects that are built or substantially repaired or improved using federal funds. This means that most private housing and construction will be unaffected. If federal funds are used directly for building, then those projects would be required to consider and build in ways that anticipate and mitigate future flooding. This bill does not impose any further red tape or government control on private homebuyers, owners or lenders. Instead, it is the federal government taking responsibility for the projects it manages or controls — there is no added bureaucracy, just extra accountability.
Given the increasing frequency and scope of natural disasters, I’d say we can all get behind the need for reform, and quickly. Every year we delay just means more money wasted in the long run and more harm done to our local communities. This is smart, forward-thinking reform that we need in order to modernize our infrastructure and to bring our government policy in line with best practices.
Peggy McGaugh is a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, representing Chariton, Carroll and Ray counties. She and her husband live in Carrollton.