AP: Trump order undermines rebuilding better for future floods

August 30, 2017

Jessica Grannis spoke with the Associated Press about rebuilding in more resilient ways that take the impacts of climate change into account. The AP reported that two weeks before Hurricane Harvey's flood waters engulfed much of Houston, President Donald Trump rolled back an order by President Obama that would have made it easier for storm-ravaged communities to use federal emergency aid to rebuild bridges, roads, and other structures so they can better withstand future disasters.

Now, with much of the nation's fourth-largest city underwater, Trump's order has new resonance. Critics note the president's order could force Houston and other cities to rebuild hospitals and highways in the same way and in the same flood-prone areas. Trump's action is one of several ways the president, who has called climate change a hoax, has tried to wipe away former President Barack Obama's efforts to make the United States more resilient to threats posed by the changing climate.

The order Trump revoked would have permitted the rebuilding to take into account climate scientists' predictions of stronger storms and more frequent flooding. Bridges and highways, for example, could be rebuilt higher, or with better drainage. The foundation of a new fire station or hospital might be elevated an extra 3 feet. ...

Even though Obama's order has been revoked, federal officials have some wiggle room that might allow them to rebuild to higher standards, Grannis said. If local building codes in place before the storm call for new construction to be more resilient to flooding, then federal money can still be used to pay the additional costs.