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Can You Dig It

A short-sighted measure

At what point does regulation trump safety?

Shortly before Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in August, the Trump Administration issued an executive order that would roll back certain rules regarding environmental reviews for infrastructure projects and restrictions on federally funded projects in flood-prone areas. It’s an announcement that’s part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to streamline regulations and address aging infrastructure.

Naturally, different parts of the nation have different zoning regulations for developing in a flood plain, and, in some cases, none at all. But what happens when those rules for federally-funded projects are rolled back on areas prone to flooding?

According to the American Institute of Architects, the key changes of the executive order include a goal of shortening the environmental impact review period for infrastructure projects to two years. It’s the repeal of a previous executive order that required any federally funded project to be located outside of a flood plain, using the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood insurance rate maps as a key measure of the likelihood of flooding.

Rolling back common sense safeguards of taxpayer money, such as avoiding projects in flood plains, is a mistake, according to Sarah Dodge, senior vice president of advocacy and relationships for the AIA.

These safeguards are put in place for a reason, and it makes sense to keep them.

“Although this was done through an executive order, which is a tool for the president to establish federal policy on a myriad of issues without going through Congress, the AIA will continue to lead the fight against rollbacks on the safeguards put in place for American homeowners and businesses alike,” Dodge said in a statement.

Judging by recent reports, storms are expected to get stronger and more frequent. We’ve already seen it with Hurricane Harvey, Irma and the latest, Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico, all in less than two months.

Whether we learn from disaster remains to be seen.

You can read more about the risks of developing in a flood plain in our Oct. 16 issue.

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