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tv   U.S. Army Corps Testifies on Hurricane Ida Response  CSPAN  October 10, 2021 3:44pm-5:02pm EDT

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>> good morning. i'm pleased to join our colleagues in calling this to order. welcome. two are witnesses joining us today -- to our witnesses joining us today, how long have people been calling you butch? >> since i was born. i am a junior. they didn't call me billy graham. [laughter] >> all right. my mother wanted me to grow up and be billy graham. down in virginia, we spent a lot
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of time in the baptist church. welcome. nice to see you again. to colonel steve murphy, we are delighted you could join us today, and your supporting team. thank you for joining us for what has become an all too frequent issue over the last number of years, providing an emergency response in the aftermath of extreme weather. each of our witnesses comes from a different position. and from different parts of the country. they will share with us their points of view on the response to hurricane ida as well as their thoughts on investing in more resilient water resources, infrastructure and building back better, as our president likes to say. since 1980, north atlantic hurricanes have become more intense and frequent. this trend is projected to
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continue in the years ahead as our planet continues to warm. accordingly, the importance of the emergency response services will grow as well. that is why we must insure all parts of our government including federal, local and state are all working together in lockstep to improve the resiliency of our infrastructure to withstand the storms. new orleans, the $14.5 billion flood protection system after katrina is a great example of a smart, all of government approach to resilience. the state of louisiana has begun to pay back its share. route 3 01 in delaware, you go east of d.c., maryland, you finally get into dollar, 301,
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delaware is paying back the money, a similar approach. when hurricane ida made landfall, this new system was put to its first test. fortunately, it held strong and prevented catastrophic flooding in new orleans we saw in 2005. this is where we can see federal investment in resiliency pays. challenges remain. states and localities often rely on reimbursement from the corps to maintain these projects once they are constructed. all these costs cannot be recovered. we know the need is real.
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stakes could not be higher. including our economy, homes, people's lives and livelihoods are at stake. look at how louisiana fared during ida. other communities in the state were devastated. we might have a photo of that. my home state of delaware, as the storm turned north, we experienced flooding, beach erosion and wind up to 60 mph. this is a shot of that bridge road. new jersey faced similar shoreline erosion. flooding, new york, while the final number of deaths is not yet in. we know 29 confirmed in
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louisiana, more than 40 in new york and new jersey. at least seven additional states reported deaths. in addition, experts project $90 billion impact, making it the seventh costliest hurricane to hit the u.s. since 2000. seven hurricanes, more than $90 billion in economic impact, seven within 20 years. ida pot is a lot including -- ida teaches us a lot including what works and what doesn't. we must also recognize until we address the root causes of climate change, the u.s. will continue to face natural disasters of increasing severity and intensity with more devastating impacts. that is why we need to rapidly
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reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase investments and create jobs while doing so. an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. his words still ring true today. the corps of engineers civil works department provides value to our nation as a primary provider of water resources in the structure and with more extreme events caused by climate, it has never been more important that our infrastructure stands up to the growing challenge and protect the people we represent. we look forward to hearing your testimonies today. first, i want to turn -- we call each other wing man, wing woman, we are partners in crime here. [indiscernible] we all have competing hearings going on. [indiscernible]
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they need me to be there. you are in charge. [indiscernible] i will come back as fast as i can. >> thank you and good morning. it is good to see a familiar face. major general graham who served as commander of the pittsburgh district while i was in congress, you were my core leader, which covers a significant portion of my state and west virginia. colonel murphy, thank you for being here and for the warm hospitality extended by you and your team to the committee staff during the visit to core facilities in louisiana earlier this year. i want to thank you, general pitner for being with us today. thank you for your service. some of it has been international. thank you for that. we watched the impact of ida both in louisiana and the northeast.
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tragically, 82 people lost their lives, billions of dollars in damages. those of us who have recently experienced terrible natural disasters feel greatly for our fellow americans impacted by this hurricane. as ranking member of this committee and of the homeland security subcommittee, my staff want to stay abreast of fema's response and other agencies providing support. corps has 710 personnel deployed and received 24 mission assignments totaling 200 million dollars in response to hurricane ida. 2.5 main dollars issued in coastal flood control -- $2.5 million were issued in coastal flood control response.
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again, i want to reiterate my gratitude to you for performing these critical functions. i'm eager to hear how we can support your efforts to help the nation respond and recover from these types of disasters in the future. by all accounts, the hurricane storm damage risk reduction system for new orleans, authorized by congress and constructed by the corps of engineers after hurricane katrina performed as intended. the system provided, prevented a more significant loss of life and severe damage to the city. not all areas are covered by the system however. that is where we saw the devastation in unprotected communities in louisiana and replicated in the northeast. importance of partners working together to identify and address
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existing gaps in flood risk management and coastal storm damage reduction. five point $7 billion supplemental funding provided by the congress -- $5.7 billion supplemental funding provided by the congress mitigates risk through the silver jackets program, getting resources to state and other authorities. it is something i'm keen on hearing from all of you. i am eager to hear how we can support efforts to help the nation respond and recover in the future. the committee will do its part in this process by providing programmatic direction to the corps, which we are actively engaged in right now. let me reiterate our gratitude and i want to thank the chairman
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for having this hearing. so i would like to introduce our witnesses. major general william butch grahm at headquarters where he oversees all the core civil works activities. $7 billion annual program in response to storms and other natural disasters. his previous assignments include commander of the north atlantic division and the pittsburgh district from which he hails. our second witness, the current commander of the north atlantic division. the overseas six districts including activities in more than a dozen states, africa and europe. current assignments include the savannah division and the philadelphia district.
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our third witness is colonel steve murphy, current commander of the new orleans district where he oversees all louisiana. you are a busy man. we appreciate your service to the country and look forward to your statements. general graham? >> ranking member and distinguished members, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. i am the deputy commanding general for civil and emergency at headquarters. i would like to offer sincere condolences to families who lost loved ones during hurricane ida. our prayers are with those who have been impacted. hurricane ida made landfall august 29 as a category 4 storm and immediately began to draw comparisons to katrina.
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following katrina and the devastating flooding in new orleans, the hurricane storm damage risk reduction system was built. as the name implies, it was built to reduce the risk of flooding caused by storms to the city. during ida, the system performed exactly as designed. the projects help to reduce flood risk of vulnerable communities but we must be prepared to respond when flood risks are realized. this aspect is achieved through our partnerships with fema, state and local governments and our key contracting partners. in response to ida, 760 employees, we snuck an extra 50 in on you, the corps of engineers. as was mentioned, we have issued
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2.5 main dollars of coastal emergency funds -- $2.5 million of coastal emergency funds. operation blue roof is manned by the corps on behalf of fema. this allows residents to return to their homes, restarting local economies. since september 1, corps has received 34,000 valid requests and as of this morning, we have completed over half. 17,000 have been installed to date. to put this in context, last year, laura and delta, we installed 13,000. we are up to 34,000 we need to install this year. we have completed 17,000 to date. this increase provides a perspective of how damaging ida
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was. 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 of our previous efforts, we are looking at ways to get started sooner by speeding up work orders to contractors and by bringing in contractors early, pre-landfall. more broadly, we continue to see record-setting severe weather events across the nation. last year, we responded to 28 disasters, 10 hurricanes, nine floods and three major wildfires included. we must incorporate climate change resiliency into our planning process. recently, the chief of engineers may recommendation for the authorization of a $29 billion risk management system for the coastline of texas. when looking at any future
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project, we need to comprehensively evaluate and analyze all benefits. the water resources development act of 2020 created flexibility for the army corps. it analyzes multiple benefits, social, economic and environmental. it encourages the use of nature-based features, seeks alternatives to accommodate for sea level rise. we are working hard to put these new authorities to work for the american people. thank you for the opportunity to speak. i look forward to questions. >> thank you. general? >> ranking member, distinguished members of the committee, i'm commander of the corp's north
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atlantic division. as storm risk management is a shared responsibility, one executed best in a whole of community approach, the corps partners with nonfederal stakeholders. this collective skill set combined with capability enhanced our effectiveness in preparing for, responding to and recovering from storm events. in my role i am 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 obtained advanced info concerning impacts from the national hurricane center, u.s. geological survey, national weather service forecast centers and other meteorological data. this data obtained through public law assisted in the accurate prediction of potential consequences ida could bring.
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we were able to communicate this risk to fema and the states. to manage risk, we conducted predictive analysis based on forecasting and the division lowered its corps dam reservoir elevations to maintain maximum flood storage available to reduce impacts downstream. we provided early support to our state and local partners by contacting them to determine their needs. several district emergency operations centers activated to provide technical assistance under pl8499. sandbags, plastic sheeting and alternate materials were placed on standby, pre-positioned, ultimately released as needed. when the remnants of ida arrived, we were impacted mostly by significant rainfall, overwhelming stormwater systems, inundating local streams leading
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to flashlight events and isolated tornadoes. post emergency assessment, i was able to conduct site surveys of locations within the storm impact area. these locations included areas where the core had conducted studies, as in the river basin in new jersey and in merrimack, new york. i also surveyed sites where the corps has active projects like the indian rock dam in pennsylvania and in new jersey and i am happy to report our project performed as designed. i observed areas where there was significant impact but no current core products or studies like the brandywine river in areas of philadelphia. we provided technical expertise to the states including a corps liaison officer to pennsylvania and new jersey state emergency centers. subject matter experts and water
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removal and on watering information for the pennsylvania dot. fema regions 2, 3 and the states they supported, pennsylvania, new jersey and new york were satisfied with our proactive approach to this event. in the aftermath of superstorm sandy, congress asked us to prepare a performance report. that 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 norm evaluations to determine impact and develop efficiency reports for projects. initial assessment showed damages incurred to project elements which will require an investment in repairs. in addition to maintenance on these projects, in some cases, corps recommends a comp or hence of assessment of their status to
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include review of performance criteria and recommendation for updating based on current science, recent storm events and factors such as climate change. in common with much infrastructure, many of our projects require continuing investment in operation to ensure effectiveness. corps is committed to working together with our federal interagency's, state and local partners to provide solutions for the tough challenges facing our communities. thank you for inviting us to speak today. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you. colonel murphy. >> good morning, ranking member and distinguished members of the committee. i am the commander of the army corps of engineers new orleans district. on behalf of my team, thank you for the opportunity to discuss corps response to hurricane ida in my district. it encompasses south louisiana, texas and the west to mississippi in the east.
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day in and day out, i focus in large part on coastal and climate change issues. louisiana coast is a working coast. do through the significance of its waterways and their benefits to the national economy, including five of the nation's busiest ports, the mississippi river, the busiest waterway in the nation and our economic artery as well as the gulf intracoastal waterway, which is the nation's third busiest waterway, all of which continue to be impacted by golf storms -- gulf storms. the majority of the population lives near the coast. coastal louisiana is near the epicenter of climate change. sea level rise is a major concern for the corps and the state. consequently, my major missions are navigation, coastal and environmental restoration, coastal storm risk management and flood risk management.
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flooding of any kind, from rainfall, storm surge or river, what has been occurring on a more frequent basis, the occurrence of all three of 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 and are 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, one third of my workforce evacuated out of state, to include my wife and children. almost all of us lost power and almost half saw damage to their home with 37 of us experiencing so much damage that their homes are now not livable. we could not be more proud of the performance of the greater new orleans areas system and how it validated the massive
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investment you have heard about already. other parts of the state were not as fortunate. where there was federal investment in levees and flood walls, the systems performed is designed. ida has validated and reinforced many of the lessons we learned over the last 16 years since hurricane katrina made landfall. the systems the federal government invest in have reinforced the value of the core systemwide approach and demonstrated the importance of sustainability and resilience the corps has incorporated into its design. we have projects currently underway that are incorporating these principles outside the greater new orleans area. we are now in day 40 of recovery from ida. i will close by saying there could not be a better team to handle natural disasters and climate change than the team that is gathered in louisiana. everyone here knows disaster
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response is truly a team sport. i do not think we could be working more closely or cooperatively with the state of louisiana than we are right now. after personally experiencing two of the longer mississippi river flood events in our history, the most active hurricane season in our history last year, the covid pandemic and now hurricane ida, i can definitively say this is a highly functional and collaborative team that has made the response in support of the state, especially ida, successful. that same spirit of cooperation drives investigation and implementation of nature based solutions in sync with the state's 50 year, $50 billion coastal master plan including measures ranging from coastal restoration to environmental mitigation to the consideration
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of large-scale diversions of 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, i will close. thank you for the opportunity. >> thank you. we will go to questions. belated happy birthday to my collie from maryland. >> -- colleague from maryland. >> thank you so much. i only have 364 days remaining until my birthday. appreciate that. thank you for your service. we appreciate the leadership. it is critically important to maryland, all of our states. i was in louisiana, new orleans after katrina. our committee inspected firsthand the damage done. it was shocking to see the amount of loss of life and property. the investment is one we supported.
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it worked. we are proud of what we were able to do to mitigate hurricane ida. we recognize the storms are becoming more frequent and severe. we have a responsibility to deal with the realities of climate change both in mitigating future pollutants, reducing greenhouse gases and adapting to new realities. your responsibilities on adapting -- i want to touch on briefly. many years ago we made a decision in maryland to invest in nourishment. storms were becoming more severe. we invested millions of dollars. the result has been billions in saving and savings in life. these investments pay off
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dramatically. there is also a change in the risk factors i am seeing in our communities. we saw it during ida. we have had flooding before. because of a long sequence of rain causing banks to rise beyond what they can handle and you have dealt with that issue through your flood management programs. in recent years, we found something different occurring. that is the large volume in a short time a rainfall. that was true during ida. it wasn't the integrity of the flood system. it was more the extreme amount of rain in a short time. i mentioned that because in ellicott city, maryland, as you well know, we experienced in a 20 month period two 100 year floods. what was unique about these floods that we had never
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experienced before -- ellicott city is on the banks of a river, we saw the rivers rise and cause flooding. we had never seen the large volume of rain occur in such a short time that could not possibly be managed by the current system. as we look at these new risk factors -- more violent storms, not necessarily hurricanes. just a large volume of rain coming down in a short time, flooding communities -- how do we prepare for this? i appreciate, colonel, you mentioning dredge material. we are replenishing wetlands. that is part of our strategy. wetlands, not only manage the flooding situation but it also manages the pollutants from runoffs. it is important. i am interested as to what your recommendations are to us to
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manage the realities of the current risk factors on violent storms occurring with a large amount of rain in a short time, which is not the way we have traditionally been dealing with infrastructure to prevent flooding? >> thank you for the question. let me address that. we have put together the administration, has directed, they climate action plan. it is up with ceq right now. we expect that to be released soon. it has five major components. those address your concerns. those components are we have to modernize our approach. programs and policies. to deal with a different future. we have to manage better the facilities we operate like the dams around philadelphia that the general mentioned.
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we have to enable, as colonel murphy spoke to, our partners. a lot of that is sharing science. we know committee staff members went down to duck, north carolina and saw some of that science being created. we have to share that info with local partners. that includes actionable data that can stand up to scrutiny so folks, local communities, states, realize the challenge they are under and finally, we have to plan and put into operation those futures and this committee plays a key role in that. thank you. >> my time has run out. i would urge us to think about how we can work in partnership to deal with these extreme rain events causing communities to be extremely vulnerable. it is hard to plan for every part of our community getting extreme weather event but we have to have a game plan for our communities. it is occurring.
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we saw it during ida. we have seen it several times in maryland. it is unprecedented, the type of flood risk we currently have. we will be looking to you in this report to give us a game plan on how we can protect communities the best we can from the realities of these storms. thank you. >> senator? >> thank you, madam chair. i know this hearing is on ida but all three individuals, witnesses here were participants in a real tragedy we faced in 2019, a flooding case in oklahoma where we had levees that were 75 years old and well past their normal lifetime. they held up. i remember being up to my waste and water during that time.
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-- in water during that time. we were very fortunate. since that time, we have been on pins and needles what might happen if we should get another flood. nonetheless, everyone performed very well. the language we put into the 2020 system performed very well. general graham, as the corps budgets for future projects, do you believe it is important to take into account safety of life benefits like you did in the tulsa levees report? >> absolutely. >> i have to say, we really did a good job in terms of the private sector. we had to make changes in our current statutes to accommodate that. things did work out well.
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we don't have many hurricanes that hit oklahoma but it is important to remember oklahoma is connected, as arkansas is to the mississippi river. a lot of people having a hard time understanding we are navigable in oklahoma. i have said this 400 times in the last few years. we need to be a part of a system and participating in that. we have done good work in working with the private sector. colonel murphy, senator boseman and i spent a lot of time working on the impact of that navigation way. is it true getting our navigable waterways open to commerce is key to a successful recovery effort?
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how does the corps prioritize dredging efforts following flooding and storm surge events? >> thank you for the question. absolutely. that is one of the first things we are looking to do as soon as we can get boats in the water. i have survey boats going out on the federal waterways, in conjunction with the coast guard. >> i appreciate that. 2019 flooding was a shock and exposed gaps in our system but we are lucky in oklahoma to have 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, for the panel, for the future -- look at the authorities. what authorities does the corps need to enable them to respond as capably as they did in this
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case? this might be something you could do for the record, get your ideas together as to how can we work more efficiently with the private sector such as we did in oklahoma? ok? very good. thank you. >> thank you. senator? >> thank you, senator. welcome all of you. i am glad to have you here. i represent rhode island in the senate. in new england, the most extreme climate related shift we have seen has been in the form of extreme rainfall. it is kind of off the charts. in terms of a persistent underlying shift related to climate, what we see coming is sealevel rise. in fact, we are going to have to redraw the map of rhode island
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to accommodate the loss of seashore, and what is now land turning into an archipelago of flooded islands. against that backdrop, we experienced dramatic failure of fema mapping. i have read press reports in texas fema mapping was off by as much as 50% when floods hit houston. as a result, rhode island has had to do its own mapping going back to the original data and bringing in our own scientists. as a result, we >> have an >> accurate and successful mapping tool called storm tools that has round by the rhode island coastal resources management council. it is annoying as hell to fund fema and also have the state of rhode island have to pay for its
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own mapping because fema mapping is not accurate. i know fema ducked. a lot of the reason for inaccuracy was baking and climate change. they don't want to punish anyone but fema took a dive in this one. the results is one you have to live with all the time which is bad maps. what are you doing to try to make sure you are operating off good flood maps and when you have to come in for emergency response, people are not being clobbered by the fact that they did not know they were in a flood zone and did not have insurance and now they are really stuck? what is the view from the front? >> thank you for the question. any project the corps does, there are two imperatives. we want to get the engineering
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right. we want to make sure we are good stewards of the taxpayers money. to understand the topography and hydrology, we agree, that is absolutely essential. that is the bedrock engineering is founded on. i will relook based on the information you provided to make sure we are indeed using the best science available. >> often predictions related to climate change are simply zero factored out. simply bad prediction. we know what perfectly well is going on here. you see it change and act as if it is going to go straight rather than continue its trajectory when there is zero science to support the proposition that it will go level state. please take a look at that. the other thing i want to flag for my colleagues, which i always do, we are talking about
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ida. coastal flood. army corps of engineers had the flood and coastal storm damage reduction program. in the last decade, it has run between favoring inland over coastal flooding by 19-1. that was our best bet at the end of a battle. 220-1. one dollar for coast. the fy 22 budget has it at 45-1. somewhere in the middle. $45 for inland. one dollar for coastal. i want to thank the corps to try to understand what the heck is going on. when you look at sealevel rise, offshore storm, ida, the idea you have set up your inland,
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your flood and coastal storm damage reduction program in a way that so inexplicably favors inland flooding over coastal flooding is a matter of real concern to those of us who represent coastal states and have huge flooding issues like what storm tools revealed about rhode island. we are working on that through another lane but i did not want to let this opportunity go by without raising that astounding discrepancy and what it means for my state. thank you. >> senator boseman. >> thank you very much. thank you for being here. we appreciate your service to our country in this capacity but you have all had outstanding careers and have served in so many different ways. i want to associate myself with senator inhofe's words regarding the importance of getting back on track and the benefit to the
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economy. all those kind of things. it really is important not only to our states but to the economy and the entire country and really the world so major general graham, media reports indicate the cost of damage from ida could be as high as $95 billion. this compares to 170 billion dollars resulting from katrina, $130 billion from harvey and $74 billion from sandy. according to estimates by noaa, you discussed our country invested $14.5 billion to reduce flood risk in new orleans. you used the term invested rather than obligated because
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investment in infrastructure is truly an investment especially one for the system that protected new orleans, which saves this country money and more importantly saves lives. do you believe the american people received a good return on that investment? if so, why? >> thank you for that question. certainly, it was a great investment. i was able to visit colonel murphy a week after the storm hit and i was expecting to stay in mobile or in baton rouge. one 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 was not for that investment. >> very good. >> colonel murphy. >> in your opening statement you
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talked about the team effort between the federal, state and local government, tribal and levee boards to address the issues caused by ida. in your opinion, how much does it help the corps when they are able to lean on their nonfederal sponsors? what are the benefits of having local side-by-side with the federal government when addressing the aftermath of extreme weather events? i would say, not only aftermath but the precursor? >> senator, in short, having a single nonfederal sponsor through the state has been invaluable. during the storm, i was talking to the governor directly, phone call and text, i was talking to the chairman with the state coastal protection and restoration authority and i pushed out lgl's directly to the parish and levee district
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emergency operations centers. that communication facilitated has created, we like to say a one door to the corps approach whereby questions and concerns, friction is identified and we can solve problems. it helps quicken our response. i would attribute a lot of the communication that exists now to why we have been successful to date. >> colonel, what other corps constructed reduction projects within the new orleans district, apart from hurricane risk reduction system were impacted by ida? what is your assessment of their performance? had the opportunity to be down there in congressman scalise's district which abuts to new orleans, after katrina and i know there was tremendous impact.
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sometimes we leave those areas out because of the focus on the bigger centers. tell us what else was impacted. >> thank you. >> assessment of their performance. >> any federal system performed is designed. we did not see major overtopping, certainly not on the hurricane storm damage. outside of that, we have $1 billion in supplemental projects we did not see any major impacts on. sadly enough, for the westshore lake pontchartrain project, unfortunately that was not in place. we are moving forward. we have let the first contract on that. that will reduce risk to laplace, which was one of the most impacted areas of the storm. those contracts will be well on
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our way. >> you have a good story to tell. that is great. thank you. >> senator. >> thank you all for being here. i have to go to another 11:00 meeting. colonel murphy, you said navigation routes, busiest mississippi. what is the one in the middle? >> the ohio river. >> i was hoping you would say that. [laughter] it just happens to run along the western border of my state. major general graham, thank you. this is the second time we have gotten to work together. this is great. we talked about predisaster mitigation and how important that is. it is interesting to hear my colleagues talk about this flash rain that set.
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that was our last flood in 2016. it was very devastating. what we hear from local partners sometimes, even fema in some sense and i am not laying blame here is that sometimes the processes to get help are so dag gone complicated. you have five different aspects. streamlined some of these. if i look at my cities and towns and counties, they do not have flood disaster experts. they have someone tasked with that but they are also tasked with traffic or trash pickup or other function because they are spread thin. you have that expertise. as much as you can streamline those processes in working with local partners, certainly in new orleans they have a lot of experience but what we found was
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that was manage chaos. we could have recovered quicker had we had more handholding and simplistic way to react to some of those. i want to ask you to put that on your radar screen. we appropriated $5.7 billion in the continuing resolution and i was wondering your timeline for expanding these funds. if you have any ideas on that? also will you make sure that information regarding the funding, when we make requests for information that that comes in a timely fashion? >> ranking member, in terms of transparency, to respond to the committee's request, absolutely. we are absolutely committed to being responsible and those. to the timeline on getting that,
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we are working on that. we are looking at the investigation projects, construction projects. the mississippi river project and the o+m work we have. our goal is to get that work delivered as fast as we possibly can. >> what is the timeline stretch on those dollars? do you know? >> i do not know. we will get that answer to you. >> thank you. general, we were astounded when we saw the video. it was hurricane ida flooding the subways in new york city. it was something we had not anticipated. what do you attribute that to? was there something here predisaster could have been better performed to mitigate that? as the colonel said, the predisaster we did in response to katrina actually prevented a
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lot more damage in ida. what do you see in the northeast in terms of unlikely places to see pictures like that? >> appreciate that question. as an engineer, we watched new york city. we don't have a project there that takes care of that. what happened was the large amount of rain fell in a very short time, record levels. there storm water system, the drains could not handle it. the roads turned into rivers. water went to the lowest point, many of which was a basement. there were a lot of rescues that happened in the basement. there were folks trying to drive through that storm water, which, once you get out of your vehicle, you are now fighting the water and the power of the water will overtake anybody. regretfully, new york city had 18 deaths. new jersey had more.
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30 a believe. -- i believe. so from talking to my counterparts at the state level, from a pure flash flood where we are not putting in a project, it is about education and letting people know the risk is out there. don't go into the water. regretfully, some people lived in the basement. hopefully that problem is being corrected where they have a way out. >> the bill we passed, the wastewater, safe drinking water -- was incorporated into trying to modernize some of these old systems. i don't know how old new york city's is but i would imagine it is in excess of 100 years. certainly we have systems that old in our state. to try to manage that -- this is where i think if we do on the front end what we know to be, to
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have fallacies on the backend, we will end up saving money, lives, property. we have to make these processes toward communities and states to access these dollars so they feel like they can work with you and work with other local partners, fema and whoever to get these projects up and running. thank you all very much. i appreciate all your good hard work. thank you so much and thanks for keeping the trains on time. the army is always on time so it's the navy we have to worry about. different uniforms, same team. this could be for anybody but in terms of what we witnessed in greater new york with the
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subways flooding, my sense is that with the climate change we are seeing, more intense rain, some storms that hunker down and sit on an area for a while and creates flooding. is that a fair characterization? anybody? >> i believe it is. that's a fair characterization. the massive rainfall events we were not expecting is what caught a lot of people by surprise. we saw the tragedies in western tennessee with some of the mountain flooding and the valleys were re-tragically lost lives. if u.s. somebody in new york city if it could happen there, they would probably say it couldn't. the education out of this is probably our test defense. >> anyone else want to comment?
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>> all just mention beyond new york city but we have started to build in the floodplains, that is something i know our state partners are very concerned with because they don't want to do just projects. they would like to do natural and nature-based features and nonstructural which could be moving people out of the flood plane that exists today. >> thank you. i want to put a human face on this so when hurricane ida came up to east coast, one of those tornadoes ripped through an area near the delaware memorial bridge. it struck a family in form -- and farm. she is my communications director.
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their family farm was destroyed, houses, buildings and equipment. that's a human face and people we know and there are many other folks that are suffering in the flood results. hurricane ida was the first big test of the new hurricane storm risk reduction system. by most accounts or maybe all accounts, it was given an a. that's very encouraging to hear. this is only part of the picture. it doesn't function without communication and collaboration with other tickle players. my question for you colonel, please tell us about the differences between the army corps of engineers response to
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katrina and the response to hurricane ida. what were the biggest changes and lessons learned from previous storms you put into use in responding to hurricane ida? >> thank you and i could spend 30 minutes but i won't. the big difference is the systems approach corps now uses. before katrina it was the hurricane warning system and it allowed water into the city on canals and it was incrementally funded so i was a huge change is a system which i think as applications of what this country is interested in, getting after coastal resilience and flooding and looking at things as a system. key lesson learned, the talent and the technology we had, we see today in the system.
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it allows decision to be made that are not funding based but risk-based and you see that and what performed right during hurricane ida. we have a willing federal partner that did not exist between katrina and now with the state, i work with the coastal protection restoration agency and they work with the levy districts. the communication is back-and-forth but i have a single state sponsor who is responsible for working real estate issues. 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 arrangement to allow you to move weekly. we still met the environmental review fireman's but what congress allowed, working with c eq after katrina is where would move forward weekly.
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>> you have 27 more minutes. we will put that in the bank. i will turn next to general graham. as i mentioned earlier, the intensity and frequency of duration of storms have increased significantly. as the climate continues to warm , hurricane intensity and rainfall are likely to increase. we must take these factors into a count. i will be fairly brief on this but the core, does it currently account for climate change in its process for flood risk management projects? >> it does, absolutely. we are working on a project
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that's on highway one which goes through the florida keys and we have formulated that project and designed it for the height sea level curve. one aspect of it is raising highway one and we have the option to use the higher sea level curve and that's what we are using for this project. . >> i will yield to senator kelly who is a man on a mission. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you for all the witnesses today for being here. general graham, this question is for you on emergent knee -- on emergency preparedness. you have spoken about the lessons the army corps of engineers learned from hurricane katrina and how those lessons inform the course response to hurricane ida. the goal of emergency preparedness should be to be ready to respond to any
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catastrophe the first time. with a changing climate affecting all aspects of the country differently, preparing for the worst case scenarios everywhere is more important. that's what i was pleased to see the los angeles district partner with the arizona department of emergency in military affairs in early september to host an emergency exercise to plan for a scenario where above average range all in arizona causes the corps' dam to fail. can you describe the value that tabletop exercises like the one hosted in arizona can provide to the army corps of engineers as you prepare for the worst case scenario? what value to exercises like these provide for the poor as you respond to the real world damages like those caused by
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hurricane ida? >> thank you for that question. we were watching the monsoon season which was very wet in new mexico and arizona closely so those exercises that are south pacific division did working to making sure the partnership worked well within the state of louisiana. we built the connective tissue within our state partners in arizona. it's the make a friend before you need a friend and it's about trust. if you haven't established the trust before hand, we don't want to do that during a storm so is key to this exercise to building trust on that government >> team. >>it reminds me of flying the space shuttle simulator but we also do different tabletop scenarios that are rather complex. in arizona right now, as you
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know, it's the worst drought in our country's history, in arizona's history. i have a subcommittee hearing on this issue later today. to discuss what we do here going forward to mitigate for this drought. because of climate issues, we have had one of our worst wildfire seasons. after the fire, if it rains comes the flight and we have been dealing with that. i appreciate you doing this. of got another question about corps benefit cost ratio. they make most instruction investigations based on projects benefits to ratio to measure the value of the project and what it will provide to the surrounding
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community in putting preventing a worst-case scenario during a disaster. there are risks to life and health and those of acted by the potential corps project. when you look across the country, do you believe c theorps does a good job in construction projects which can prevent future disasters? >> on anything we do, there is always room for improvement. we often evaluate a project on its economic development benefits. we are working to incorporate three other benefits and those are the joint economic benefit -- benefits, the silo effect and
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environmental benefits which includes the life/health safety to make sure we are including all of those when we design our studies. >> thank you general graham and all of you to be here today and i yield back 18 seconds. >> we appreciate each one of those 18 seconds. thanks for making time to come by. does the corps adapt its design processes with the rapid advances in science and air increased understanding of the interconnectivity of these
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systems, keeping in mind the increased frequency and intention of climate related impact into our future? would you like to take a shot at that? >> thanks for the question. we have lots of projects in the northeast we are studying. we do take the current science, the existing engineering that's out there that is not changing the science and the new data that's coming in with climate change is adjusting our projects. you see that on the coastal projects we have in delaware and new jersey and maryland with the systems we have but it's also going on to our flood risk management projects as we look at the potential amount of water that has to pass through safely
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past urban areas to where we will let it expand or go out to sea. >> anything you want to add to this? >> down in the mississipp valley division, we have the engineer research and development center which is a corps of engineers many of our issues in a we are work closely with them. they are our lead science and technology and on studies in the lower mississippi river, we are incorporating the best science and data they help provide us. >> anything else you want to add before we turn the page? >> research and development aspects of this where we know the world is changing and to make sure we are on a solid foundation of science is critical. >> thank you.
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we are guided by science, not lined it by science. i have another question regarding flooding impacts. your command coverages the north atlantic region which is one of the most populous areas in the nation step could you describe some of the specific challenges the corps faces in urban environments and how did you overcome them and how might we better overcome them in the future? >> thank you for the question. it is a shared response. we are working closely with all
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the states, definitely delaware. and through all the states in the northeast. it is a combination of structural things the corps of engineers would come up with, nonstructural, moving folks out of the flood plane. it's allowing the water to expand into certain areas like parks or other environmental habitats. other educational tools to allow people to know what could happen in their area, river gauges, installing more them. one of the successes i have heard from the states as they were able to warn their citizens through the automated systems out there and they knew flash flooding was happening because of the river gauges. it's a partnership and a shared responsibility. >> general graham, a different
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question -- a lot of communities in my state and around the country but despite the supplemental bills of an increase in federal investment for infrastructure, the impact of storms will likely disproportionately affect those who may not have a means to mitigate these in a timely manner. especially disadvantaged communities with environmental justice populations. rather than mitigating the damage from the storms on the back end, it's imperative we invest upfront to protect those communities that need the most help. would you discuss how the corps is specifically helping these communities from storms or natural disasters? >> thank you for that question. the guidance we received from president biden is clear, to
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focus the federal investments on environmental justice. i will focus in the northeast, one of the areas is the back bays. we have put coastal marne -- management systems you're familiar with on parts of the coast hitting the oceans. also it happens around the back bays and the folks who live back there are not as well off and there is a great deal of environmental justice concerns. we are formulating a bunch of those projects. some of them have been in front of the committee and some of the larger ones will soon be there but i think that's one aspect of how we are getting it done. >> i have more questions that i would like to ask.
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a brief closing statement and you can look for a couple of more questions for the record. before we adjourn, i would like to ask the panel's consent to submit the record a variety of materials that relate to today's hearing. senators will be allowed to submit questions for the record through the close of business on wednesday, october 20. we will compile the questions and send them to our witnesses and we ask that you respond by november 2. i want to thank our witnesses
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for their testimony today and thank you for your continued service to our nation. i spent a few years in uniform myself and i future respect for the men and women and what you do for that nation. so many of your teams with military work around the clock to help american suffering in the wake of these disasters. i want to make sure the corps is equipped with what they need to mitigate these conditions in amidst the worsening climate crisis. with that, we are dismissed, thank you again so much, thank you all to see you all. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2021] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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