Joni Ernst

Flood Mitigation Highlights - February 8, 2017

Joni Ernst
February 08, 2017— Washington DC
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ERNST: Thank you, Mr. Chair and thanks for, panelists, for being here today. This really has been a helpful- helpful discussion, and we have a number of members that come from those coastal areas and it's a great discussion. What I want to point out in my question, I'll start with you Mr. McNulty, is that the federal government one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn't work. I come from Iowa. I am landlocked. I don't have open front property, and let me dig into why I think there needs to be a little bit of difference in the federal government.

One of Iowa's top infrastructure priorities is flood mitigation, we've heard a little bit about flood mitigation here. Our second biggest city in Iowa went through two major flood events, 2008 and 2016, and to date they have not received any construction funds despite being authorized in the 2014 word a bill and again mentioned as a priority in the 2016 word a bill. A few months ago, I had a meeting with the head of the core and we had a conversation about the process. The core and the Office of Management and Budget used a budget for flood mitigation projects.

I expressed to him that communities like Cedar Rapids Iowa and states like Iowa will likely never see federal assistance from the core because they lose out every time to larger states that have higher property values and thus higher economic benefit. I'm really interested in improving these metrics so our rural communities have a fighting chance at tapping into core expertise because if the only metric the core uses to determine the economic benefit of a project is property value, then it's hard for me to conclude that the court considers building beaches or not to conclude that the court considers building beaches in front of multi-million oceanfront homes to be a higher priority than protecting the people that live in Iowa.

It was also suggested to me in my meeting with the core that because Iowans have a “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” attitude and we work very well together in our- in our communities to properly mitigate, we move farther down the list of priority and we are basically being penalized for being proactive, and so my question for you Mr. McNulty is how can we work together to improve or broaden the metrics the core uses to give our rural communities a fighting chance at federal funds?

MCNULTY: Perhaps my colleague, Mr. Pratt, might be able to answer that just a little better than- better than I can when it comes to flood mitigation.

ERNST: Okay I'm willing to listen. Thank you.

PRATT: Well certainly I'm coming from one of those- those states that has rich valuable oceanfront properties, and I certainly understand the position you're coming from. I- I will say this in my dealings for the core even from the day state of Delaware with oceanfront, there is a lack of funding to do even a lot of the work we have to do, and it sounds like we get we do get a lot of money and it does as my testimony indicated there's a tremendous return on that investment, and I don't think that the core’s metrics right now take into account the full range of benefits in any percent- in any front of flooding whether it's ocean or Gulf Coast or whether it's riverine or it's a snowpack melting in this year is this coming spring. I don't think the metrics are there. I don't think the core has the ability to give an informed discussion to anybody as to the full range of benefits that could be recreational benefits.

My understanding of the core process from what they've been to in Delaware is that they look at not the personal property value but they look at the infrastructure at risk, the density of infrastructure, the utilities, the roads, the waterways, the electrical delivery system, and what the overall effect is if that fails during a storm, and we have, as the Sun River indicated, we have not only still water flooding we also have velocity water and that was certainly the case in Sandy. Had we only had still water rising issues that would have been one thing in New Jersey in New York. It's a totally different thing when you have waves three-foot, five-foot, six-feet washing through structures and one structure falls into the next to the next to the next. So, I think the course certainly needs a liberalization … of its analytics on how the benefits accrue and inform the discussion.

I don't know your States needs, but I certainly think that that is something that nationwide the core’s process of deliberation and how they develop the benefit cost ratio because that's what they do predicate their spending the higher level and it fit the cost ratio and if you're at the high tipping end of that, then you're going to get some funding and if you're the lower tipping rate of that, then you're not going to get any funding and that's what we have two undercover is what do they what goes into that benefit side.

I've often stated all costs up to the penny of all core projects are calculated right down to the penny. The benefits, we probably leave 50-80% of them on the table. I think we better need to- need better information.

ERNST I think so too. I think the one-size-fits-all approach isn't working because every community is different. If we see all the federal funding going to areas on the coast, it's really hard for me to go back home and justify why the safety of the people in Cedar Rapids is not as important as the safety of people and livelihood of people that live on the coast, so thank you very much.