“Sixteen years ago it hit me, there has to be something else. We need to be doing more of this,” he said of nonstructural flood preventive measures.
Between 1985 and 2016 there has been $10.2 billion in property damage due to flooding every year, Behm said, adding fatalities jumped from 81 in 1986 to 155 in 2015.
“Flood risk equals the probability of flooding times consequences,” he said. “If we can reduce the probability, we can reduce risk.”
The Corps is looking at “critical facilities” like hospitals and utilities, water and wastewater plants for 500-year level protection, Behm said. Nonstructural measures include evacuation planning, emergency management plans and flood risk adaptive measures, he said, adding, “flood insurance is always recommended.”
Steve O’leary of Huntingdon, W. Va., an architectural engineer for USACE, said the Corps, whose focus is to reduce flood damage, works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose focus is flood insurance, to try to reduce insurance costs.
For properties damaged by flooding, we look at: acquisition/ buyout, which is not always popular; elevation of the structure above the flood level; relocation of a structure to higher ground; dry flood proofing, which has limitations; wet flood proofing — letting the building flood and elevating equipment above the flood level; and barriers, such as berms or flood walls, which the Corps can recommend, but not construct, he said.
“Elevating a home can reduce insurance costs,” said Eric Majusiak, who ran the Corps’ workshop.
Non-physical measures include making people aware they live in a floodplain, flood emergency preparedness and warnings, education and communication of evacuation plans, the national flood insurance program, floodplain management and land use regulations, O’leary said.
Tom Hughes, of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, explained “how to get money” through various state programs.
The state Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which aims to “make communities more resilient,” is funded 75 percent by the federal government and 25 percent from the state, he said.
The grants are intended to fund “mitigation measures to reduce the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters” during the reconstruction process following a disaster, according to a printout provided.
The Flood Mitigation Assistance program, which provides 75 percent federal funds but no state funding, is non-disaster related, and is for property owners who have a current flood insurance policy, Hughes said. “A repetitive loss property can get more money.”
“The No. 1 mitigation action is home acquisition,” he said, noting the municipality has to be involved in applying for funding.
If 50 percent or more of the value of a home is gone, that’s considered substantial damage, Hughes said. Mitigation would be a buyout, elevation or relocation.
Presenters also spoke about flood risk management studies conducted by the Corps, and Kenneth Hendrickson of the Environmental Protection Agency provided information on “green infrastructure,” such as pervious pavement and landscaping measures including rain gardens, rain barrels and green roofs.