Emerging Legal Issues in Hurricane Damage Risk Abatement
Buono, Regina M.
The vulnerability of the U.S. coastline to severe storms is clear in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Ike, and Wilma, which collectively amounted to over $200 billion in economic loss (NOAA 2013). The Houston-Galveston region alone experienced more than $25 billion in economic loss from Hurricane Ike in 2008, despite the fact that the greatest impact missed the region and instead hit east of Galveston Bay (Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster Center 2015, 12). Since that time, the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center at Rice University has been studying hurricane surge damage reduction strategies under a grant from the Houston Endowment. The goal of this work is to develop and evaluate structural and nonstructural alternatives to create a plan capable of significantly reducing hurricane surge damages in the Houston-Galveston region. Part of that research includes understanding the availability of federal funding to implement such a plan, as well as the policies that may apply to these federal funding opportunities. In turn, this research has revealed some very interesting and evolving policy trends regarding water projects and federal risk reduction. This paper explores some of the policy issues that arise in the context of the geographic and spatial challenges presented by Galveston Bay surge flooding. First, the extent of the problem is described. Second, various potentially applicable federal statutes, executive orders, and regulations are examined. Third, several proposed solutions for reducing surge flooding in the region are described and evaluated in the context of the policy initiatives from Congress and the executive branch. Finally, some conclusions are drawn and recommendations are offered for future research and implementation.