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Letter: Feds need a better strategy for local flood resilience

A coordinated resilience strategy helps communities design stronger flood infrastructure, develop smart growth strategies, put limited resources to work, and guide emergency response efforts.

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As a certified floodplain manager with 19 years of experience in civil and water resources engineering, I work directly with Minnesota communities trying to understand and mitigate the threat of major flooding from heavy rain and other severe weather events.

According to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, since the year 2000, there have been 35 different weather events in Minnesota that each caused more than one billion dollars in damages.

Total damages have been between $20 billion and $50 billion. Flooding and severe storms have caused 80% of Minnesota’s recent natural disasters. These events hurt businesses, damage private property, strain public infrastructure, and threaten public safety and national security.

Many states and communities have created chief resilience officer positions to lead efforts to increase resilience to natural disasters and implement resilience planning initiatives.

A coordinated resilience strategy helps communities design stronger flood infrastructure, develop smart growth strategies, put limited resources to work, and guide emergency response efforts.

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While cities and states have taken the lead on resilience planning, the federal apparatus around extreme weather preparedness is disjointed and redundant. Thankfully, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have come together to introduce The National Climate Adaptation and Resilience Strategy Act (H.R.6461/S.3531), otherwise known as NCARS.

NCARS would establish a federal chief resilience officer to guide the creation and implementation of a national resilience strategy that streamlines federal support, leads with science, leverages nature areas, and addresses historical inequities to help communities mitigate the threat of disasters more efficiently.

NCARS would equip local leaders with the resources, data, and tools necessary to successfully plan for future risk of flooding and other disasters.

Congress should find a way to pass this legislation. Communities across Minnesota and the country will be better off if they do.

(Joseph Waln is senior water resource engineer at Barr Engineering Company in St. Paul. He is a certified floodplain manager who frequently works on the study, design, and construction of flood risk reduction projects, and is the board chair for the Minnesota Association of Floodplain Managers)

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