by James A. Bacon
Everybody talks about the weather, as the old saying goes, but nobody does anything about it. Well, here in Virginia, people are getting serious about one aspect of the weather — flooding.
Last week Governor Ralph Northam issued an executive order, the Virginia Flood Risk Management Standard, to encourage the “smart and resilient construction of state buildings.” Based on sea-level rise projections developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the new standard requires state-owned buildings constructed after 2021 to be built at elevations that will protect them from flooding.
“Flooding remains the most common and costliest natural disaster in Virginia and in the United States, and our state government is getting prepared. These standards will protect taxpayers by establishing critical protections for new state-owned property,” Northam said in a press release.
Meanwhile, the City of Virginia Beach is grappling with the reality that it needs an extra $20 million a year to improve its stormwater infrastructure.
Currently, reports the Virginian-Pilot, the city has $55 million available for relevant capital improvement projects. Twenty-five million dollars are going to flood control, leaving $21.4 million for operation and maintenance. That level of funding has led to backlogs and delays in maintenance, leaving many communities more vulnerable. The extra $20 million requested by the public works department would be applied to shorten operations-and-maintenance work cycles, much of it on pipe rehabilitation. Another $5 million would reduce the backlog of cave-in repairs from eight months to two months, and start a roadside ditch project.
I’m not a big fan of more government spending, but stormwater control is a core government function, and state and local governments needs to focus on doing core functions well. Failure to properly maintain the stormwater system amounts to a hidden form of deficit spending. City Council needs to face up to the city’s core responsibilities.
What’s climate change for the goose is climate change for the gander… In justifying the new standards for state building projects, Northam said, “It is simply common sense to protect against the risk of flooding, because climate change is driving sea levels higher and making storms more intense.”
Northam needs to square the conviction that climate change is “making storms more intense” with his commitment to build a vast offshore wind farm as part of his drive to a 100% renewable energy electric grid by 2050. Dominion Energy is spending $300 million to build two “demonstration” wind turbines at an extraordinarily high cost per kilowatt hour. Yet, with the administration’s full encouragement, the utility is charging full-speed ahead on the regulatory front to build an $8 billion wind farm without knowing how well the demonstration turbines would stand up to hurricane-force winds. If storms are getting more intense, one might logically conclude, Virginia should be taking measures to protect its electric grid from that risk, not increasing its exposure to that risk.There are currently no comments highlighted.