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Kaine, Warner & Scott To Introduce Bill To Help Hampton Roads Invest In Sea Level Rise Resiliency Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and U.S. Representative Bobby Scott will introduce the Building Up Infrastructure and Limiting Disasters through Resilience (BUILD Resilience) Act, a bill to establish a competitive grant program for resilient infrastructure investment. This legislation will bolster the ability of regions like Hampton Roads to implement projects and strategies to reduce regional vulnerability to threats like sea level rise and recurrent flooding. With a range from 1 ½ to 7 feet of sea level rise projected by the year 2100, the Hampton Roads region is the second largest population center at risk from sea level rise in the nation, behind only New Orleans. Analyses by the Congressional Budget Office and the Multihazard Mitigation Council of the National Institute of Building Sciences estimate that every $1 invested in resilient infrastructure upfront saves $3 to $4 in future losses on the back-end after a major disaster strikes.

“With this bill, Senator Warner, Congressman Scott and I are striving to promote up-front investment in resilient infrastructure than can better withstand a disaster, rather than only funding the cleanup after a disaster strikes,” said Kaine. “Sea level rise is a major challenge for residents dealing with skyrocketing flood insurance premiums and flooding not only after a Hurricane Sandy or a Hurricane Matthew but from ordinary rainstorms. For Hampton Roads in particular, this is a direct federal responsibility given the presence of the largest concentration of naval power in the world. An ODU study estimates that the main Norfolk city road leading into Naval Station Norfolk could be inundated by the tides a few hours per day by mid-century. That makes this not only an infrastructure issue but a national security issue. I hope to work with the White House and Congress to advance a comprehensive infrastructure package that addresses this challenge.”

“Walking around Norfolk, you can already see the very real effects of climate change as streets and buildings regularly flood at high tide. We have to help places like Hampton Roads proactively protect against the challenges posed by sea level rise,” said Warner. “This legislation will provide additional resources to encourage communities to prepare now for future storms and other extreme weather caused by climate change.”

“Many communities have experienced an increase in extreme weather events, including storm surge, severe flooding, and tropical storms, all of which have severely affected our nation’s infrastructure.” said Scott. “Communities in Hampton Roads are particularly at risk of experiencing these extreme weather events combined with rising sea levels.  The increasing frequency of these events emphasize the need for infrastructure investments that can guard against the impact of future natural disasters.  In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development launched the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which allowed the City of Norfolk to secure funding toward innovative resilience projects.  However, due to the number of applications received, funding for this one time competition was oversubscribed seven to one, highlighting the need for sustained federal funding for resiliency.  By introducing the BUILD Resilience Act, Senator Kaine and I are fighting to ensure that more federal funds are available to support community resilience here in Hampton Roads and in across the nation.”

The BUILD Resilience Act is modeled after the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) authorized in the 2013 Sandy emergency supplemental bill to help communities improve their ability to withstand and recover from future disasters. Through this competition, the Commonwealth of Virginia was awarded $120.5 million for innovative resilience projects in Norfolk, the third largest grant of the entire program behind New Orleans and New York City. The Cities of Newport News and Chesapeake also applied for NDRC grants but fell short due to limited available funding. The BUILD Resilience Act would address the need for greater investment by providing $1 billion/year over the next five years for infrastructure resilience. Kaine and Warner will introduce the bill in the Senate and Scott will introduce the same legislation in the House.