Sandy Rebuilding Task Force: Be Ready For Future Storms

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, today released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild.

The Rebuilding Strategy (PDF format) contains 69 policy recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms.

“President Obama was clear that his Administration is committed to staying in the Sandy-impacted region until the work was done, and today marks a crucial step in that journey,” Donovan said. “This Rebuilding Strategy will protect families, small businesses and communities across the region, and the taxpayers’ investment in them, from the risks posed by sea level rise and more extreme weather events – risks that are made worse by the reality of a changing climate.”

“We thank HUD for their leadership in moving rebuilding efforts forward in a smarter and better way.  This is especially important here in New Jersey where Governor Christie is implementing policies that leave our coast vulnerable to the next storm.  Hopefully this will help us make changes to state policy here in New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club.  “This report lays out an important program to make our state more resilient.  It will help protect the environment, grow our economy, and protect the state from climate change.”

“Sea levels are rising in New Jersey, which will have enormous impacts on residents, business and communities.  They need help to prepare and adapt.” said Chris Sturm, New Jersey Future’s senior director of state policy.  “The task force recommendations provide important guidance on how to incorporate future risk assessments into rebuilding efforts.  We are still waiting to see how the Christie administration will incorporate sea level rise into its long-range planning, and how they will help folks at the local level to do the same. For example, we have not yet heard whether the state Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) currently under revision and the $2.5 million grant program for county HMPs (which is mentioned in the task force report) will include sea level rise among the risks considered.”

“This important report lays out where we are in our Sandy recovery, and what lessons we can learn from our experiences thus far. While much has been accomplished, we know that much more work remains to be done,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ.) “As this report indicates, the Administration recognizes the need to address the escalation of flood insurance costs. While we work in Congress to develop a long term solution, the SHORE Act – which I introduced in May, would help address this problem by slowing the increase in premiums paid for flood insurance.  I look forward to continuing to work with Administration to comprehensively rebuild New Jersey better and stronger than ever before, and I call upon my colleagues in Congress to support maintaining the federal flood insurance subsidy, for now, to aid in our Sandy recovery.”

Among the recommendations that will have the greatest impact on federal funding is a process to prioritize all large-scale infrastructure projects and map the connections and interdependencies between them, as well as guidelines to ensure all of those projects are built to withstand the impacts of climate change. The strategy also explores how to harden energy infrastructure to minimize power outages and fuel shortages – and ensure continuation of cellular service – in the event of future storms.

The goal of these and other recommendations in the strategy is to:

  • Align federal funding with local rebuilding visions.
  • Cut red tape and get assistance to families, businesses, and communities efficiently and effectively, with maximum accountability.
  • Coordinate the efforts of the Federal, State, and local governments, with a region-wide approach to rebuilding.
  • Ensure the region is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient – that is, better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by a changing climate.

In addition to the recommendations that are directly linked to Sandy Supplemental funding, the Rebuilding Strategy also includes additional policy recommendations that will have a significant impact on how the region rebuilds. Finally, in recognition of the increased risk the region and the nation face from extreme weather events, the Rebuilding Strategy includes recommendations that, if implemented, will improve our ability to withstand and recover effectively from future flood-related disasters across the country.

Several of the policies and principles developed by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force were also incorporated into President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which laid out a series of steps to prepare communities for the impacts of a changing climate, including the need for the federal government to make investments based on the most up to date information about future risks.

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