These days, there aren’t many issues that inspire hundreds of public officials from around the country and across the political spectrum to come together in support of a common goal. But here’s one: the need to safeguard America’s roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure from flooding.
Flooding is the costliest natural disaster in the United States. It accounted for more than $268 billion in damage last year, a number that has risen steadily over the past two decades, and it affects the entire country, including areas well inland. Every state has experienced at least two major floods in the past 10 years.
That’s why I’ve joined more than 250 state and local officials, representing all 50 states and more than 45 million Americans, in signing a statement of principles to make our infrastructure more flood-ready. We believe this can be done with policies that improve resiliency requirements for buildings and infrastructure; enhance the use of natural defenses, such as open green space and wetlands, in disaster preparedness; and reduce unsustainable development in high-risk areas.
Joseph P. Riley was mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, from December 1975 to January 2016 and now is a distinguished fellow with The Pew Charitable Trusts.