Moving Out of Harm’s Way

As coastal communities across the nation weigh options for dealing with climate change, a rising sea and more frequent flood events,  policy makers are coming around to the realization that a more holistic, longer-term view is not only necessary, but also more practical.

Buying out and moving flood threatened residents from harms way offers significant disaster recovery savings according to both FEMA and the Center for American Progress. Between 2011 and 2013 Congress spent $400 per household on relief and recovery after major disasters. The National Flood Insurance Program with a total $527 billion liability owes taxpayers $28 billion. The revenue from premiums brings in only $3.8 billion a year. The US coastal flood hazard area is expected to increase 50 percent due to global warming by 2100, thereby expanding the NFIP liability 130 percent to over a trillion dollars.

As sea levels rise over time, the coastal hazard areas will include airports, seaports, railroad yards, and cities. The expenditures for protective coastal hardened structures for these areas will dwarf what has already been experienced. Political pressure may jeopardize available funding for the recovery and relief of less populated flood hazard areas.

The expense of moving citizens and assets with buyouts usually pays off in 10 years by virtually eliminating future disaster recovery costs and taxpayer liability. Also, the natural habitat will flourish, natural storm barriers will offer greater protection, and the coastal environment will benefit.

If conservative climate change forecasts become a reality, the buyout solution may reduce capital expenditures for recovery and relief enough to make the potential tax payer burden affordable.

To read the full Center for American Progress report with details on buyout programs, please click here.

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