Energy & Environment

One-quarter of critical infrastructure at risk of failure from flooding: research

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A new risk assessment found that around 25 percent of all critical infrastructure in the U.S. is at risk of becoming inoperable due to flooding.

For its report titled “The 3rd National Risk Assessment: Infrastructure on the Brink,” nonprofit research group First Street Foundation looked at residential properties, roads, commercial properties, critical infrastructure and social infrastructure.

According to the report, 25 percent — or 35,776 critical infrastructure facilities — are at risk of being affected by worsening flood events. By the year 2051, the number of critical infrastructure facilities at risk is estimated to rise to 37,786.

The same report found that 14 percent of residential properties, 25 percent of roads and 20 percent of commercial properties are similarly at risk.

“In the United States, many infrastructure discussions over the past 20 years have been centered around possible physical attacks, energy crises, and terrorism, but climate change has a higher probability of significant impact on the Nation’s infrastructure,” the foundation wrote.

“With an increasing number of flooding events making U.S. headlines, there is a greater awareness of the economic and human cost that flood-damaged infrastructure can produce,” it added. 

Jeremy Porter of First Street Foundation told The Associated Press, “Our work aims to determine the amount of flooding that would render infrastructure either inoperable or inaccessible.”

“By applying research on depth thresholds and comparing them to flood data and probability metrics, we can determine roughly the extent of flooding that would cause a road to be impassable to cars, or a hospital to be shut down,” he added.

The report on the risks facing U.S. infrastructure comes out as Congress is stalled in passing a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes $550 billion in funding for new investments into roads, bridges, broadband, water and rail.

The bill also calls for $40 billion for the repair, replacement and rehabilitation of bridges. These investments would also address climate change and resilience.

The Senate passed the bill in September and it has since been held up in the House as moderate and progressive Democrats spar over a separate reconciliation package that would spend big on climate change and drastically expand the country’s social safety net.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has set an Oct. 31 deadline to vote on the infrastructure bill, while Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said he hopes to have both bills to President Biden by that date. 

Tags Building America Charles Schumer Critical infrastructure protection flooding Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi Risk

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