tv U.S. Army Corps Testifies on Hurricane Ida Response CSPAN October 29, 2021 11:46am-1:04pm EDT
to our witnesses joining us today from the army corps of engineers, major general butch graham, how long have people been calling you butch? >> since i was born. so i'm a junior and my dad took bill graham so they didn't call me billy graham. >> all right. my mother wanted me to grow up and be billy graham. in virginia we spent a lot of time in a baptist church, if you know what i mean. welcome, butch graham. welcome to brigadier general tom tickner, nice to see you again. colonel steve murphy, glad you could join us today. the folks that are behind you and supporting team, we welcome all of you. thank you for joining us for what sadly has become an all too frequent issue over the past couple of years and that is providing emergency response in the aftermath of extreme, extreme weather. each of our witnesses comes from a different position with the corps, actually from different parts of the country, we were
just talking about that. they're going to be able to share with us their points of view on the corps' response to hurricane ida as well as their thoughts on investments in infrastructure, on building back better, as our president likes to say. as we all know, since 1980, north atlantic hurricanes have become more intense and unfortunately more frequent. this trend is projected to continue in the years ahead as our planet continues to warm. accordingly, the importance of the corps' emergency response services will grow as well. that's why we must ensure that all parts of our government, that includes the federal, local, and state, are all working together in lockstep to improve the resiliency of our infrastructure so it can withstand these extreme storms. in new orleans, $14.5 billion flood protection system built after hurricane katrina is a really grade example of a smart,
all of government approach to resilience, one where the federal government funded the total cost of the project and the state of louisiana has now become to pay back its share. we have actually a similar arrangement on the highway in delaware'sdelaware, 301 route, 301 if you get to drive out of here, hit it going from maryland, finally get to delaware, 301. federal government fund the money, and stated dollars, similar kind of approach. but when hurricane ida made landfall, exactly 16 years after katrina, this new system was put to its first test, and unfortunately it held strong and prevented the catastrophic flooding in new orleans that we saw in 2005. and this is where we can see that federal investment is in resiliency pays dividends. challenges remain. the biggest obstacles like the one in ocean is the states rely
on reimbursements for the court to cover the costs of operating and maintaining these projects after they are constructed. but the corps, constrained by politics and budget short falls can't always recover all of these states and communities. the result is that areas strapped for resources are unable to make the investments in resilience that they desperately need. and we know that the need is real. the stakes could not be higher, including our economy, our homes and people's very lives and livelihoods are at stake. and just look at how louisiana fared during ida, while sophisticated water infrastructure, and new orleans protected much of the city from flooding, other communities in the state were devastated. i think we might have a photo of that. yeah, there we go. my home state of delaware would surround itself in the path of ida's remnants as the storm turned north, we experienced severe beach erosion. we experienced flooding and wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour. and i think do we have -- yeah,
this is a shot of smith bridge road that we saw. new jersey faced similar shoreline erosion, and many of us saw the video of water rushing through, and suburban systems. one of the final numbers of deaths contributed to hurricane ida is not yet in so we know of 29 confirmed deaths in louisiana, more than 40 in new york, and in new jersey with deaths reporting at least seven additional states. addition to tragic human toll, experts project ida's impact at $90 billion making it the 7th costliest hurricane to hit the united states since the year 2000. just think about that, seven hurricanes, each responsible for more than $90 billion in economic impact, all within 20 years. seven within 20 years. and like all major storms, ida teach us a lot, including about
what works and what does not work, and why we can all be thankful for the human engineering, new orleans one of the nation's most vital port systems. from ida's destruction, we must also recognize, until we address the root causes of climate change, the u.s. will continue to face natural disasters in increasing severity, and intensity with more devastating impacts. that's why we need to rapidly and dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and increase investments and resilience, and create a lot of jobs while doing so. benjamin frankly once said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and his words still ring true today. the corps of engineers civil works program provides tremendous value to our nation, the primary provider of water resources infrastructure, and with more extreme weather events caused by a climate, a changing climate, it's never been more important that our infrastructure stands up to the
growing challenge and protects the people we all represent. we look forward to hearing each of you testimonies today, and turn to shelley capito, we call each other wing man, wing woman, but we're partners in crime here, but both parties are doing a lot of good, and i want to turn to her for an opening statement. we all have competing hearings going on right now. i have a business going on in homeland security, government affairs committee, which i used to chair, and it's a business meeting where they need me to come and do quorum and votes at the beginning. i'll come back as fast as i can. thank you, senator capito. >> thank you, and good morning to everyone. it's good to see a familiar face here, and major general graham who served as commander of the pittsburgh district when i was in congress, you were my corps leader, which covers a significant portion of my state in west virginia. colonel murphy, thank you for being here today and for the
warm hospitality extended by you and your team to the committee staff during their visit to corps facilities in louisiana earlier this year, and i want to thank you also general tickner for being here with us today. thank you for your service. i know some of it has not been domestic. some of it has been international. thank you for that. we all watched the impacts and after math of hurricane ida, both in louisiana but also in the northeast. tragically an estimated 82 people lost their lives and billions of dollars in damages. those of us from states and communities that have recently experienced a terrible natural disaster so greatly for our americans, fellow americans impacted by this hurricane. as both ranking member of this committee and also of the homeland security appropriations subcommittee, my staff and i stayed abreast of fema's response in this disaster and other agencies providing support such as the corps, how important that has been. by the most recent count, the
corps has 710% deployed, totaling $223.4 million in response to hurricane ida. the corps is also issued 2.5 million in flood control and coastal emergency funds under public law, 84.99. this funding went toward the protection and repair of critical infrastructure as well as the provision of equipment and facilities to fight floods and maintain essential services. again, i want to reiterate my gratitude to the men and women of the corps for performing these critical functions. i'm also eager to hear from you how we can support the corps' efforts to help the nation respond and recover from these types of disaster in the future. by all accounts in our chair talked about this, the hurricane storm damage risk reduction system known as istris for new orleans authorized by congress and constructed by the corps after the catastrophe of
hurricane katrina, performed as intended. the system prevented a more significant loss of life and severe damage to the city. not all areas are covered by this system, however, and that's where we saw the devastation in those unprotected communities in louisiana and replicated in the northeastern states. it's important that local, state and federal partners continue to work together to identify and address existing gaps and flood risk management, and coastal storm damage reduction. the 5.7 billion in supplemental funding provided by the congress to the corps just last week will support these efforts. solutions will take time, however, which is why it is also important that the corps continues to work with communities to identify and mitigate risks through its silver jackets program. planning assistance to states and other authorities. challenges with and suggested improvements to existing technical assistance program are something that i'm keen on hearing from all of you.
i'm also eager to hear about how we can support the corps's efforts to help the nation respond and recover from the disaster in the future. the committee will do its part in the process by authorizing individual projects and studies and providing programmatic direction to the corps by resource legislation which we're actively engaged in now. let me reiterate our gratitude, and i think i want to thank chairman carper for having this hearing. i would like to introduce our witnesses in the absence of our chair. first, major general william butch graham is the current deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations at headquarters, u.s. army corps of engineers where he oversees the corps civil works activities. a $7 million annual program in responses to storms and other natural disaster. his previous corps assignment including commander of north atlantic division and the pittsburgh district from which he hails.
our second witness is brigadier general tom tickner, the current commander of the north atlantic division, overseeing a $5 billion annual program that covers six districts including activities in more than a dozen states. africa and europe. his previous corps command assignments include pacific ocean divisions, savannah division, and philadelphia's district. our third witness is colonel steve murray, he oversees all corps activities in southern louisiana, he previously commanded the national district of the corps of engineers. i want to welcome each of you to the committee today. we appreciate your service to the country and look forward to your statements. so general graham, we'll start with you. >> ranking member capito, and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify to discuss the u.s. army corps of engineer emergency response to hurricane ida. i'm major butch graham, the
deputy commanding general for civil and engineer operations at headquarters. i would like to start by extending our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones during hurricane ida. our thought asks prayers are with those who have been impacted by this storm. hurricane ida made landfall on august 29th as a category 4 storm, and immediately began to draw comparisons to hurricane katrina. as was mentioned following hurricane katrina, and the devastating flooding in the city of new orleans, the $14.5 billion hurricane storm damage risk reduction system was built, and as its name implies, it was built to reduce the risk of flooding caused by storms to the city. during hurricane ida, this system performed exactly as designed. while the project the corps builds helped to reduce the flood risk of vulnerable communities, we must also be prepared to respond when some of those flood risks are actually realized. this aspect of resiliency is achieved through our emergency
response partnerships with fema, state and local governments, and our key contracting partners. in response to hurricane ida as many as 760 corps have been deployed, and we snuck an extra 50, and done assignments totaling almost a quarter billion dollars. as our own pl 49 authorities, the corps has issued 2.5 million of flood control and coastal emergency funds. as part of the massive response with a team i'm immensely proud of, i want to highlight our missions temporary blue roofing, to provide homeowners in disaster areas to protect storm damaged roofs. this allows residents to return to their homes, restarting local communities and local economies. since september 1st, the corps has received over 34,000 valid requests, and as of this morning, we have completed over
half, 17,000 roofs have been installed to date. to put this in context, last year for the two hurricanes that hit the gulf coast, the corps installed 13,000, so 13,000 last year, we're up to 34,000 we need to install this year, and we've completed 17,000 to date. this threefold increase provides a perspective of just how damaging ida was. after any event, working with fema, we critically evaluate ourselves to see where we can improve. for the temporary roofing mission, even though we are installing roofs at almost twice the rate as our previous efforts, we are looking for ways to get started sooner, speeding up how we get work orders to our contractors and bringing in potentially our contractors early, prelandfall. looking more broadly, we see record setting severe weather across the nation. last year alone, we responded to 28 different disaster including ten hurricanes, nine major
floods and three major wildfires. one of the ways we're responding to the challenge in the future is incorporating climate change resiliency into our planning process, given the scale of climate change, a broader approach for planning is required. recently the chief of emergencies made recommendation for the authorization of a $29 billion system wide risk management strategy for the coastline of texas. when looking at any future project, we need to comprehensively analyze all project benefits. the water resources development act of 2020 created flexibility for the army corps to address the needs of economically disadvantaged communities, minority communities and rural communities. the act has an approach that analyzes multiple benefits for project justification, social benefits, economic benefits, and environmental benefits. the authorities encourage natural and nature based, and accommodate for sea level rise
and innovative ways to expand dredge material. we are working hard to put these new authorities to work for the american people, and thank you, again, for the opportunity to speak today and i look forward to answering any questions. >> thank you. general tickner. >> ranking member capito, distinguished members of the committee, i'm brigadier general tom tickner, commanding of the corps north atlantic division. thank you for the opportunity to provide some context to the corps' response to hurricane ida in the northeast region. as storm risk management is a shared responsibility, one executed best in a hole of community approach, the corps partners with federal agencies, and non-federal stake holders. this collective skill set combined with the capability enhanced our effectiveness in preparing for, responding to and recovering from storm events. in my role, i'm responsible for federal engineering work in all parts of the 14 northeastern states from virginia to maine.
before the storm hit our region, my districts were able to obtain reliable, advanced information concerning potential ida impacts from the national hurricane center, the u.s. geological survey, the national weather service river forecast centers and other meteorological data. this data obtained through public law 8499 authority assisted in the accurate prediction of potential consequences ida could bring, and we were able to communicate this risk to fema and the states through the corps, mapping systems. to manage risks to corps owned and operated projects, conducted predictive analysis based on weather forecasts and the division lowered its corps, dam reservoir before the rain arrived to retain the maximum amount of flood storage available to reduce potential impacts downstream. we provided early support to our state and local partners by contacting them to determine their needs. several of our district emergency operation centers
activated to. >> referee: -- provide technical assistance. flood materials such as sandbags, plastic sheegt were placed on stand by, and ultimately released as needed. when the remnants of hurricane ida arrived, we were impacted mostly by significant events where rainfall overwhelmed storm water systems and inundated local streams leading to flash flood events and isolated tornadoes. as part of our post emergency assessments, i was able to conduct site surveys of locations within the storm's impact area. these locations included areas where the corps has conducted studies, in passaic river basin in new jersey, and meramec, new york. i also surveyed sites where the corps has active projects, like the indian rock dam in york, pennsylvania, and the raritan restrictive in new jersey. our projects performed as
designed. finally i observed areas where there was significant impact but no current corps projects or studies, like the brandy wine and schuylkill river areas of philadelphia. we also provided technical expertise to the states including a corps liaison officer to pennsylvania and new jersey, state emergency operations centers. a subject matter expert on watering and debris removal to new jersey eoc, and on watering information for the pennsylvania department of transportation, both fema regions two and three, along with the states they supported, pennsylvania and new jersey, and new york were satisfied with our proactive approach to this event. in the after math of superstorm sandy, congress asked to prepare a performance report analyzing how our completed projects performed. that report and other work following sandy has heightened our intent to build resilience into our coastal storm risk management, and flood risk management projects. together with our federal and
nonfederal partners, we are currently completing post storm evaluations to determine impacts and develop efficiency reports for these projects. an initial assessment shows damages incurred to some of our flood risk project elements, which will require an investment and repairs. in addition to the repairs and maintenance we conducted on these projects, in some cases, the corps recommends a comprehensive assessment of their status, to include review of performance criteria, and recommendations for updating based on current science, recent storm events and factors such as climate change. in common with much of the nation's infrastructure, many of our projects require a continuing investment in operation and maintenance to ensure their effectiveness. the corps team is committed to work together with our federal, state and local partners to provide engineering solutions for the tough challenges facing our communities. thank you again for inviting us to speak today. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, next we'll have
colonel murphy. thank you. >> good morning, ranking member capito, and distinguished members of the committee, i'm colonel steve murray, the commander of the army corp. of engineers in the new orleans district. thank you for the opportunity to discuss the response to hurricane ida in my district area of operation. my area of operation encompasses all of south louisiana from texas in the west to mississippi in the east, day in and day out i focus in large part on coastal and climate change issues. the louisiana coast is a working coast as the state calls it, due to the significance of its activities and waterways, and their benefit to the national economy. these include five of the nation's top busiest ports, the mississippi river is the busiest waterway in the nation and our economic artery, and which is the nation's third busyiest waterway. all of which continue to be
impacted by gulf storms. the majority of the state's population lives in the southern half of the state and the coast. coastal louisiana sits at the epicenter of climate change. sea level rise and subsidence coexist as threats for both the corps and the state. consequentially my major missions are navigation, coastal storm risk management, and flood risk management. flooding of any kind, whether from rainfall, storm surge, or river rain flooding or in what has been occurring on more frequent bass, the occurrence of all three at the same time is a major concern for the state and for my district. the men and women of my district are residents of south louisiana. during a storm, they endure the same impacts as their neighbors. for them working with our partners to ensure a promising future in coastal louisiana is not just a professional responsibility. it is a personal commitment. during ida, almost a third of my
1,100 person work force evacuated out of state, to include my wife and children. almost all of us lost power, and almost half saw some form of damage to their homes with 37 of us experiencing so much damage from ida, their homes are now unlivable. we couldn't be more proud of the hurricane storm damage risk reduction system and how it validated the massive investment of 14 1/2 billion that you have heard about already, other parts of the state were not as fortunate. where there was federal investment in levees and flood walls, though, the systems performed as designed. hurricane ida has validated and reinforced many of the lessons we've learned over the last 16 years since hurricane katrina made landfall. the systems that the federal government invested in have reinforced the value of the corps' system wide approach and demonstrated the importance of sustainability and resilience that the corps has incorporated since then into its designs.
we have projects currently underway that are now incorporating these principles outside of the greater new orleans area. we are now in day 40 of recovery from hurricane ida. i'll close by saying there could not be a better team to handle natural disaster and climate change than a team that has gathered federal, state, and local in louisiana. everyone here knows disaster response is truly a team sport. i do not think we could be working more closely or more cooperatively with the state of louisiana than we are right now. after personally experiencing two of the longest lower mississippi river mud flights in our district's history, the most active atlantic hurricane season in history last year, the covid pandemic and now hurricane high -- ida, i can definitively say this is a highly functional and collaborative team that has made the response in support of the state and these disaster and
especially ida accessible. that same spirit and cooperation also drives the corps investigation and implementation of natural and nature-based solutions that are in sync with the state's 50-year, 50 billion coastal master plan, including measures ranging from beneficial use of dredge material to coastal restoration to environmental mitigation to the consideration through my regulatory program of large scale diversions in the lower mississippi river aimed at restoring the coast and making it more resilient. i could go on but out of respect for your time and to allow for questions,ly close there. thank you again for the opportunity to be here. >> thank you, colonel. we will go to questions and a belated happy birthday to my colleague from maryland, senator cardin. >> well, senator capito, thank you very much, i only have 364 days remaining until my birthday, so thank you, appreciate that. first of all, thank you very much for your service. we really do appreciate the leadership the army corp., it's
critically important to maryland, critically important to all of our states. i was in louisiana, new orleans, after katrina. our committee went down there to inspect firsthand the damage that was done. and it was shocking to see the amount of loss of life and of property, so the 14 1/2 billion dollars investment is one that we all supported and it worked. as you all have said. we're proud of what we were able to do to mitigate the hurricane ida. we also recognize that these storms are becoming more frequent and more severe, and that we have a responsibility to deal the realities of climate change, both in mitigating the future pollutants that are eating our greenhouses or emitting greenhouse gases, as well as adapt to the realities, and your responsibilities on
adapting to the realities, i want to just touch on briefly. many years ago we made a decision in maryland to invest in nourishment, the northeast is becoming more and more severe. and we invested millions of dollars, and the result has been billions of dollars of savings, and savings alike. so these types of investments really pay off dramatically. but there's also a change in the risk factors i'm seeing in our communities, and we saw it during ida. we've had flooding before because of a long sequence of rain and causing banks to rise, beyond what they can handle, and you have dealt with that issue through your flood management programs. but in recent years, we found something different occurring, and that is large volume in a short period of time of rainfall. that was true during ida.
so it wasn't really the integrity of the flood system. it was more the extreme amount of rain in a very short period of time. i mentioned that because in ellicott city, maryland, as you all know. we experienced in a 20-month period two 100-year floods. but what was really unique about these floods that we had never experienced this type of flooding before. ellicott said these on the banks of rivers. we have seen rivers rise and cause flooding into ellicott city. we had never seen the large volume of rain occur in such a short period of time that couldn't possibly be managed by the current system. so my question to you is as we look at these new risk factors, more violent storms, not necessarily hurricanes, just a large volume of rain coming down in a very short period of time that are flooding communities, how do we prepare for this? >> now, i appreciate colonel,
you mentioning the beneficial use of dredge material. we're doing that and replenishing wetlands. that's part of our strategy because wetlands not only manage the flooding situation, but it also manages the pollutants going into, from runoff. it's an important part of our strategy. i'm just interested as to what your recommendations are to us to manage the realities of the current risk factors on violent storms occurring with a large amount of rain in a short period of time, which is not the way we have traditionally been dealing with infrastructure to prevent flooding. >> senator, thank you for that question, and let me address that. we have put together, the administration has directed it, a climate action plan, and it's right up with ceq right now, and
expect that to be released soon. and it has five major components to it, and i think those address your concerns. and those five major components are we have to modernize our approach, and that's our programs and our policies to deal with a different future. we have to manage better the facilities we do operate, like the dams around philadelphia that general tickner mentioned. we've got to enable as colonel murphy spoke to, our partners and a lot of that is sharing our science with. committee staff members went to duck, north carolina, and saw some of the science being created. we've got to share that information with our local partners, and that includes this actionable data that can stand up to scrutiny. folks, local communities, states, realize the challenges that they're under and then finally, senator, we've got to plan and put into operation those futures, and this authorizing committee plays a key role in that. thank you.
>> i think my time has run out. i just would urge us to think about how we can work in partnership to deal with these extreme raining events that are causing communities to be extremely vulnerable. and we can't -- it's hard to plan for every part of our community getting an extreme weather event but we have to have a game plan for our communities because it's occurring. we saw it during ida, we've seen it several times in maryland. it's unprecedented the type of flood risks that we currently have, so we're going to be looking to you in this report to give us a game plan on how we can protect communities the best that we can from the realities of these storms. thank you, madame chair. >> senator inhofe. >> thank you, madame chair. i know this hearing is on ida, but all three of the individuals as witnesses here were
participants in a real tragedy that we face in 2019. a flooding case in oklahoma where we had levees that were 75 years old, and well well past their normal historic lifetime. and they held up. and i can remember, actually being up to my waist in water during that time, and so it was something that we were very fortunate, and since that time, we've been on pins and needles what might happen if we should get another flood. nonetheless, everyone performed very well, and the word language that we put into the 2020 worded system performed very well. general graham, as the corps plans budgets for future projects, do you believe it's important to take into account safety of life benefits like you
did in the tulsa levees, and chiefs report? >> senator, absolutely. >> i have to say, we really did a good job in terms of the private sector. we had to make some changes in our current statutes to accommodate that at times, and things did work and worked out real well. now, we don't have in hurricanes that hit oklahoma, but what is important to remember is that the oklahoma is connected as arkansas is to the mississippi river through the incar insuranc -- a lot of people have a hard time understanding that we in oklahoma are navigatable. to let people know that we need to be a part of a system in participating in that system, and have actually done really good work in terms of working
with the private sector. colonel murphy, i would have to say this, i'm sure that senator boozman and i spent a lot of time working on the impact of the navigation way. colonel murray is it true that getting our navigatable waterways open to congress is key to a successful recovery effort, and how does the corps prioritize dredging efforts following flooding and storm surge events? >> senator, thank you for the question. i would say absolutely, that's one of the first things we're looking to do as soon as we can get both on the road and the water. i have survey boats on the federal waterways i'm responsible for to get surveys in conjunction with the coast guard to clear them. >> i appreciate that. and the 2019 flooding exposed a
lot of gaps in our system. we're lucky in oklahoma to have numerous private sector entities where we had to bend the law a little bit to make it happen. what i would like to ask you to do is to -- for the panel, for the future, look at the authorities, what authorities does the court need to enable them to respond as capably as they did respond in this case. and this might be something that you could do for the record, get your ideas together as to what -- how can we work more efficiently with the private sector, such as we did in the state of oklahoma. okay? very good. thank you. >> thank you. senator whitehouse. >> thank you, senator. welcome all of you, i'm glad to have you here. i represent rhode island. and up in new england, the most
extreme climate related shift that we have seen has been in the form of extreme rainfall. it's kind of off the charts. and in terms of persistent underlying shift related to climate and what we see coming is sea level rise, in fact, we're going to have to redraw the map of rhode island to accommodate the loss of seashore, and what is now land turning into an of islands, we experienced dramatic failure of fema mapping. and i've read press reports, fema mapping was off by as much as 50% when floods hit the houston area. as a result, rhode island has had to do its own mapping, going back to the original data and
bringing in our own scientists, and as a result, we've got a very i believe accurate and successful mapping tool called storm tools, that have been run by our ccma agencies, the rhode island coastal resource management council. it is annoying as hell to fund fema and also have the state of rhode island have to pay for its own mapping because fema mapping isn't accurate. i know fema ducked because a lot of the reason for the inaccuracy was that they would have to bake in climate change and their very powerful forces, don't want to punish anybody that talks about climate change, so fema took a dive on this one, in my view. the result is one that you have to live with all the time, which is bad maps. what are you doing to try to make sure that you're operating off of good flood maps and when you have to come in with your
emergency response, people aren't being clobbered by the fact that they didn't know they were in a flood zone, they didn't have proper insurance, so now you're really stuck. you're in the middle of all of that. what's the view from the front? >> senator, thank you for that question. and any project that the court does, there's two imperatives. i want everyone to make sure we get the engineering right, and we want to make sure we're in control of the projects and are good stewards of the taxpayers' money. to make sure we understand the topography, and hydrology, we agree that's absolutely essential and the bedrock the engineering is founded on. i'll go back and relook based on the information you provided to make sure we are, indeed, using the best science available. >> yeah, i think often predictions related to climate change are simply zero factored
out, which is just simply bad predictions when we know perfectly well what's going on here, and, you know, you see it change, and then you act as if it's just going to go straight from here on over rather than continue its trajectory, when there's zero science to support the proposition that it's going to go level state. take a look at that. the other thing i want to flag, we're talking about ida, ida hit as a coastal flood, the army corps of engineers has something called the flood and coastal. coastal storm damage reduction program, and in the last decade, it has run between favoring inland over coastal flooding by 19 to 1. that was our best year to be at the tail end of 19-1 losing battle to 120-1. $1 for coast for every $120 for
inland, and the fy 22 budgets has it at 45-1. somewhere in the middle, $1 for coastal for every $45 for inland. i want to thank the corps for taking a good hard look at this to understand what's going on. when you look at sea level rise, offshore storms, when you look at ida coming ashore as a coastal storm, the idea that you guys have set up your inland, your flood and coastal storm damage reduction program in a way that so inexplicably flavors inland flooding over coastal flooding is a matter of real concern to those of us who represent coastal state asks have huge flooding issues like what storm tools reveals about rhode island. so we're working on that through another lane but i just didn't want to let this opportunity go by without raising that astounding discrepancy and what it means for my state.
thank you, my time is up. >> senator boozman. >> thank you very much, and thank you all for being here, and we really do appreciate your service to our country in this capacity, but you've all had outstanding careers, and have just served in so many different ways. i want to associate myself with senator inhofe's words regarding the importance of getting back on track, you know, the benefit to the economy, all of those kind of things. he truly has been a great champion, and great leader in that for many many years, and it really is important not only to our states but to the economy of the entire country, and really the world. so major general graham, media reports indicate that the cost of damage from hurricane ida could be as high as $95 billion. this compares to $170 billion resulting from katrina. $131 billion from harvey, and 74
billion from sandy. according to estimates by the national oceanic and atmospheric administration, in your testimony, you discussed how our country invested 14.5 billion to reduce flood risk in new orleans. i like how you used the term invested instead of appropriated. or obligated because infrastructure projects truly are an investment. especially ones such as the hurricane storm damage risk reduction system that did protect new orleans. which saves this country money. and more importantly saves lives. i guess the question is do you believe the american people received a good return on their $14.5 billion investment. if so, why? >> senator, thank you for that question. i think certainly it was a great
investment. i was able to go visit colonel murphy about a week after the storm hit, and i was expecting to have to stay out in mobile or maybe in baton rouge, but a week after the storm hit, the amazing city of new orleans was back on its feet, and it would not have been back on its feet if it wasn't for that $14.5 billion investment. >> very good. >> colonel murphy, in your opening statement you talked about the team effort between the federal, state, and local government, tribal and levee boards to address the issues caused by hurricane ida, in your opinion, how much does it help the corps when they are able to lean on their non-federal sponsors, and what are the benefits of having local side by side with the federal government when addressing the after math of extreme weather events and i would even not only after math but the precursor. >> senator, i say in short,
having a single nonfederal sponsor through the state has been invaluable, just during the storm, i was talking to the governor directly, the phone call and text, i was talking to chairman klein with the state's coastal protection and restoration authority, and i push out what we call lgl, local government liaisons, but corps employees to the parish, and levee district emergency operations centers, and that communication that that has facilitated has created what we like to say a one door approach whereby questions, concerns, friction is immediately identified, and we can solve problems. so it helps quicken our response, and i would attribute really a lot of the communication that exists right now to why we've been successful to date. >> colonel, what other core flood and storm damage construction projects within the
new orleans district apart from hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system were impacted by hurricane ida, and what is your assessment of their performance? i had the opportunity to be down there in congresswoman scalise's district, which is, you know, abuts up to new orleans and after katrina, and i know that there was tremendous impact there. sometimes we leave those areas out because of the focus, you know, on the bigger centers, but tell us what else was impacted. >> thank you, senator. >> assessment of their performance. >> like i made during my opening remarks, any federal system performance, we didn't see any major over time, and certainly not on the hurricane storm damage. outside of that, though, we have over a billion dollars in bb 18 supplemental projects that we didn't see any major impacts on
sadly enough for the west shore, lake pontchartrain project, unfortunately that was not in place. the good news is we're actually moving forward. we have let contracts. just let the first contract on that, and that will reduce risk, which was one of the most heavily impacted areas to the storm, and with those contracts in place, really, the majority of them this coming year in 2022, we'll be well on our way to completes that project. >> very good. you've got a good story to tell. that's great. thank you. >> senator capito. >> thank you, and thank you all for being here after i questioned and the chairman's giving me this time, i have to go to another 11:00 meeting, so i want to thank you. i want to start colonel murphy on a quiz, navigate routes, the busiest is mississippi, third is inland waterway, what's the one in the middle? >> senator, it's ohio river. >> i was hoping you would say
that. just happens to run right along the western border of my state. major general graham, thank you, this is the second time we have gotten to work together, so this is great. i'm going to say something that we talked about predisaster mitigation, and how important that is in the -- and it's interest to go hear my colleagues talk about these really flash rain that just sort of sits, and that was oust last flood in 2016. it was very very devastating as you know. but what we hear from our local partners sometimes, and even fema in some sense, and i'm not laying blame here is that sometimes the processes to get help are so dag gone complicated, and so you've got an opportunity through the climate program that you said you wrote that has five different aspects to it, i think really streamline some of these. you know, if i look at my cities and towns and counties, they don't have flood disaster
experts. they've got somebody that's tasked with that, but they're also tasked with traffic or some other traffic pickup or some other functions because they're spread pretty thin. you all have all of that expertise, and i think as much as you can streamline those processes in working with your local partners, certainly in new orleans they have a lot of experience with it. what we found is it was just chaos but managed chaos. but i think we could have done better with it and recovered quicker had we had a little bit more hand holding and simplistic way to react to some of those. so i want to ask you, just to put that on your radar screen, we have just appropriated 5.7 billion in supplemental appropriations in the continuing resolution, and i was wondering, you know, your process and time line for expending these funds, if you have any ideas on that, and also will you make sure that that information regarding this funding, when we make requests
for information that that comes in a timely fashion. >> ranking member capito, in terms of transparency, to respond to the committee's request, absolutely we'll be committed to being responsive on those. to the time line on getting that $5.71 billion that we just received at work for the american people, we're working on that right now. we're looking at the investigation projects, the construction projects, certainly we're looking at the mississippi river projects, and the o and m work that we've got and our goal is to, as with any of the disaster supplementals to get that work delivered as fast as we possibly can. >> what's the time line stretch on that, on those dollars, do you know? >> ma'am, i don't know. we'll get that answer back to your team. >> thank you. >> general tickner, i think we were all astounded when we saw the video of the post, well, it
wasn't the post, it was the hurricane ida flooding the subways in new york city. i think it was something we hadn't really ever anticipated. what do you attribute that to? was there something again here that pre-disaster could have been better performed to be able to mitigate that? because we saw obviously as the colonel said, the pre-disaster that we did in response to katrina actually prevented a lot more damage in ida, so what do you see in the northeast in terms of very unlikely places to see pictures like that. >> ranking member capito, i appreciate that question, and as an engineer, we all watched what happened in new york city. we don't really have a project there that takes care of that, but what happened was a large amount of rain fell in a very short period of time, record levels, and their storm water system, the drains couldn't handle it, so the roads turned
into rivers, and water went to the lowest point, many of which was a basement. there were a lot of rescues that happened in the basement. then there was also folks trying to drive through those, that storm water, which once you get out of your vehicle, you're now fighting the water and the power of water will overtake anybody, and so regretfully, new york city had 18 deaths, new jersey had even more with 30, i believe. so from talking to my counter parts at the state level, you know, from a pure flash flood, you know, where we're not putting in a project, it's about education and letting people know that this risk is out there. don't go into the water. regretfully, some people lived, you know, in the basement, and hopefully that problem is being corrected where they have a way out. >> i would say that the bill we passed, safe drinking water,
waste water was incorporated into the thick in terms of trying to manage or trying to modernize some of these old storm systems, i don't know how old new york city's storm system is, but i would imagine it's an excess probably of 100 years. certainly we have systems that old in our state, and then to try to manage that, so this is where i think if we do on the front end what we know to be -- have fallacy on the back end, we're going to end up saving money, saving lives, saving property. we've got to make these processes to force communities and states to access these dollars, so they actually feel like they can work with you and work with other local partners, fema and whoever to be able to get these projects up and running, so thank you all very much, and i appreciate all of your good hard work, thank you. >> senator capito, thank you so much, and thank you for keeping the trains on time.
i was trying to do two halves at once. always on time. it's the navy we work out. i say that as retired navy captain. different uniforms, same team. there we go, how is that. colonel, let me say, this could be for anybody, but in terms of the -- what we witnessed in the new york, greater new york corps of the subway sliding and that sort of thing, my sense is that the climate change we're seeing more expense rain, in some cases we're seeing storms hunker down and sit on an area. create a lot of flooding. is that a fair characterization or not, anybody? >> chairman, i believe it is. that that's a fair characterization. and that massive rainfall events that we weren't expecting is, i
think, what caught a lot of people by surprise. we saw the tragedies in a western tennessee with some of the mountain flooding and the valleys where we tragically lost some lives this year, and if you were to ask somebody in new york city, do you think that could happen here. i'm going to guess they probably said it couldn't. so i think education coming out of this is probably our best defense. >> yeah. gentlemen, anyone else want to comment? i know you weren't trained in weatherology or meteorology. >> i'll mention a little bit maybe beyond new york city but where we've done, we've started to build over the last hundred years in the flood plains, that is something that i know our state partners are very concerned with because they don't want just to do projects. they would like to do natural and nature-based features and not structural, which could be moving people out of the floodplain that exists today. >> all right.
thank you. i want to put a human face on this, when hurricane ida came up the east coast, and spun tornadoes, one of the tornadoes ripped through an area just on the other side of the bridge, and the family farm of katie glasso, my communications director in delaware, lives in new jersey, and their family farm was destroyed, houses, buildings, equipment, and so we know that the human face and people that we know, and there are a lot of other folks that are suffering, were suffering, are suffering, as a result of all of this. but hurricane ida was the first big test of the new hurricane storm risk reduction system. and by most accounts maybe by all accounts it was given an
"a," i didn't get a whole lot of "as" when i was in school, but i got a few. this was part of the picture. it doesn't function without tireless communication and collaboration with other critical players. my question colonel, for you please. tell us about the differences between the corps response to hurricane katrina and rita and the response to hurricane ida. what were the biggest changes that you put into use in responding to hurricane ida? >> i would tell you, a big distance is the systems approach that the corps now uses before katrina, and hurricane protection system, and a system named only, it allowed only the city via canals and it was
incrementally, which has application to what this committee is interested in, how do we get after coastal resilience, how we get after flooding is looking at things as a system. so that federal funding, key lesson learned allowed the corps to move forward, the technology that the corps had, we see today in the system. not funding based but risk base ed. you see that performed during ida. we have a willing federal partner, a single federal partner, now with the state, i work with the coastal protection restoration agent and they work with the levee districts, now. the communication is back and forth, but i have a single sate sponsor who is responsible for working real estate issues who i work with on pay back, all the kind of issues, and then really third i would say another key
enabler was the alternative environmental arrangements. there is no way to build the kind of infrastructure you need without having some kind of environmental alternative arrangements to allow you to move quickly. now, we still met those environmental requirements, but what really congress allowed working with ceq after katrina, we were able to move forward very quickly. >> you didn't need 30 minutes, but you have 27 more minutes. we'll put back in the back. i'm going to turn next to general graham for questions pertaining to climate change, and project design. as i mentioned earlier, the intensity, the duration of storms has increased significantly, and as climate continues to warm or climate continues to warm, hurricane intensity and rainfall are only projected to increase as we continue to experience the impacts of climate change, the way in which we approach risk
reduction, must take these factors into account. my question is, and i will be fairly brief. i want to recognize senator kelly. does the corps account for climate change in its design process for flood risk management projects? >> sure it does. absolutely. i'll give you a quick example, we're working on a project, it's on highway 1, which goes down to the florida keys, the southern tip of florida, and we've formulated that project, we designed that project for the high sea level curve because one of the aspects is raising highway 1, the only road in and out. so we went -- we have the authority to use the higher sea level curve, and that's what we're using for this project. >> good. i have a follow up question for the entire panel, i'm going to yield to senator kelly a man on a mission, and he can ask his questions and head on to the next assignment. >> well, thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for all the witnesses today for being here.
general graham, this question's for you on emergency preparedness in arizona. you've spoken both in your testimony about the lessons that the army corps of engineers learned from hurricane katrina, and how those lessons informed the corps' response to hurricane ida, but of course the goal of emergency preparedness should be to be ready to respond to any catastrophe the first time. and with a changing climate affecting all aspects of the country differently, preparing for the worst case scenarios everywhere is even more important. that's why i was pleased to see that the los angeles district partner with the arizona department of emergency and military affairs in early september to host an emergency exercise, to plan for a scenario where above average rainfall in arizona causes the corps. the corps is painted rock dam near fila bend to fail and risk
significant downstream flooding, so general, can you describe the value that table top exercises like the one hosted in arizona can provide to the corps as you prepare for the worst case scenario, like what value do exercises like these provide for the corps as you work to respond to the real world damages like those caused by hurricane ida? >> senator kelly, certainly thank you for that question, and we were all watching the monsoon season, very very wet monsoon season down in new mexico and arizona closely, so those exercises at our south pacific division did in the albuquerque district did were absolutely key to making sure that the partnership that colonel murphy spoke to that worked so well within the state of louisiana that we build that connective tissue within our state partners in arizona. it's the make a friend before you need a friend, it's really all about trust, and the middle of a disaster, if you haven't
established that trust beforehand, you've got to storm norm and perform during the hurricane or the storm and we don't want to do that. it's absolutely key those exercises are to building trust in that whole of government team. >> it just reminds me of not o flying the space shuttle simulator, but at times we also do tabletop a lot of scenarios that are often complex. in arizona right now, as you know, we have had the worst drought in our country's history in arizona's history. i have a subcommittee hearing on this specific issue later today to discuss what do we do here going forward to mitigate for this drought. as we have -- because of climate issues we're facing, we had one of our worst wildfire seasons. as you know after a fire, if it
rains comes the flooding. we have been dealing with that. i appreciate you doing this. i have got another question about corps benefits cost ratio, general. as you know, the corps makes most construction and investigation investments based on a projects benefit to cost ratio as a way to measure the value of the project. what value that project will provide to the surrounding community, including preventing a worst case scenario during a disaster. and i like many folks on -- many senators on the committee, support efforts to insure a project's value represents the risks to life and health of those affected by a potential corps project. so general, when you look across the country, do you believe the corps does a good job at prioritizing investments in the construction and investigation projects which are most likely to prevent future disasters?
>> senator kelly, thank you for that question. on anything we do, there's always room for improvement. for the benefits you spoke of, we often evaluate a project primarily on its national economic development benefits. we're working now to incorporate three other benefits, and those are the regional economic benefits, other societal effects, and they include the light health safety that you spoke to. we include all of those when we design our studies. >> thank you, general graham, and thank you to all of you for being here today. i yield back 18 seconds. >> we appreciate each one of those 18 seconds. senator kelly, thanks. i know you have a full plate this morning. thanks for making time to come by and participate. i want to recognize senator kelly was talking to general graham about climate change and project design. i asked the corps council on
climate change and design process for flood risk management projects. you were going to answer that and i want to do a follow-up to that question for the rest of the panel if i could. and that would be, how does the corps adapt if design processes with the rapid advances in science and our increased understanding of the interconnectivity of these systems? keeping in mind the increased frequency and intensity of climate related impacts into our future. and would you like to take a shot at that, and then we'll come back to general graham. >> chairman, thanks for the question. and we have lots of projects on the northeast that we're studying. and we do take the current science, the existing nj nearing out there that's not changing, the science and the new data that's coming in with climate change is adjusting our
projects. and you see that on the coastal projects that we have in delaware and new jersey and maryland, with the systems we have, it also is going on to all of our flood risk management projects as we look at the potential water that has to pass through safely, past urban areas and to where we're going to let it expand or go out to sea. >> all right. colonel, anything you want to add to this? >> i would say down in the mississippi, chairman, i would say down in the mississippi valley division, which is my higher headquarters, we have the engineer research and development center, which is a corps of engineers, and for a lot of our issues, we're working closely with them to get -- they are on the lead for science, technology, and i can tell you just on studies in the lower mississippi river, we're
incorporating the best science and data that they have helped to provide us. >> thank you. general, anything you want to add before we turn the page? >> just reemphasize that research and development aspects of this, which we know the world is changing, and to make sure that we're on a solid foundation of science is absolutely critical. >> all right, thank you. >> guided by science. general, if i could, another question of you regarding flooding impacts in the urban areas. not like what we saw in the greater wilmington, delaware, area when the hurricane came through, your command covers, as we know, the north atlantic region which includes some of the most densely populated areas in our nation. while ida had significantly weakened by the time it made its way up the east coast, it produced devastating impacts in
the region, including my home state of delaware. could you describe some of the specific challenges the corps faces in conducting flood response in urban environments and how did you overcome them and how might we better overcome them in the future? >> thank you for the question. and it is a shared response. we're working very closely with all of the states, definitely delaware, but through all of the states in the northeast. and it's in combination of structural things that the corps of engineers would come up with, nonstructural, moving folks out of the flood plain, it's allowing the water to expand into certain areas, like parks or other environmental habitats. it's other educational tools to allow people to know what could happen in their area.
river gauges, installing more of them, which goes right to the early warning systems. one of the successes i have heard from the states was they were able to warn their citizens, you know, through the automated systems out there. they knew flash flooding was happening because of the river gauges, and so they were -- it's a partnership and a shared responsibility. >> thank you. general graham, a different question, if i might. one that deals with environmental justice. communities with a lot of space around the country, but general graham, despite the supplemental bills that have provided an increase in federal investments for critical infrastructure, the impact of the storms like ida will always disproportionately affect those who may not have the means to evacuate in a timely manner, especially those in economically disadvantaged communities with large environmental justice populations. and rather than mitigating the damage from these storms on the back end, it's imperative that
we invest up front to protect those communities that need the most help. and my question would be, would you just discuss with us for a bit how the corps is specifically helping these communities from future storms or natural disasters? >> chairman carper, thank you for that question. the guidance we received from president biden is absolutely clear, to focus the federal investment on environmental justice. one of the areas, and i'll focus up in the northeast, would be the back bay. we have put coastal stormers management systems, the dune systems you're familiar with, on the parts of the coast facing the ocean. a lot of the flooding also happens around the back basin, and oftentimes the folks that live back there aren't as well off, and there's a great deal of environmental justice concerns back there. so we're formulating a bunch of
those projects. certainly the general is right now, and those will soon be some of them have already been in front of this committee, and some of the larger ones will soon be there. but i think that's how -- one aspect of how we're getting at that. >> thank you. i have more questions i would like to ask, but they're saving you from any further damage that i might inflict. i have not inflicting it. you have been very forthright and clear minded in your responses. i just want to have a brief closing statement here, and then i can look for a couple more questions for the record that i would like to ask. before we adjourn, a little housekeeping. can would like unanimous consent to submit for the record a variety of materials, including letters from stakeholders and
other things that relate to today's hearing and asking unanimous consent, i'm the only one in the room so that's easy. no objection. senators will be allowed to submit questions for the record throughout close of business on wednesday, october 20th. we'll compile those questions and send them to the witnesses. we ask you reply to us by november 3rd. and in closing, i just want to thank our witnesses for your testimony today. i really want to thank you for your continued service to our nation. as someone who spent a few years in uniform myself, i have huge respect for you and the men and women you lead do for our nation. i know that so many of your teams folks on military work around the clock to help americans who are suffering in the wake of these disasters. we're grateful for your work. we want to make sure the corps is equipped with resources it needs to carry out your missions amidst a worsening climate crisis.
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