President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force published its Rebuilding Strategy on August 19. The Strategy, which includes 69 policy recommendations, advises aligning federal funding with local rebuilding visions, cutting red tape to provide efficient and effective assistance with maximum accountability, coordinating the Federal, State and regional rebuilding efforts, and centers around how to construct communities more resilient to more extreme storms. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan – and chair of the Task Force – explained that the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy will "protect families, small businesses and communities across the region and the taxpayers’ investment in them, from the risks posed by sea level rise and more extreme weather events – risks that are made worse by the reality of a changing climate."

Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states across the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States, causing at least 159 fatalities and damaging 650,000 homes. Sandy left $66 billion in damages and economic loss, as determined by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005 ($149 billion).

In response to the crisis and recognition of the rebuilding challenges after Sandy, President Obama created the Task Force in December 2012. The group is chaired by and consists of the heads of 23 executive departments, agencies and offices. The Task Force’s principal goal is to "establish guidelines for the investment of Federal funds and set the region on the path to building back smarter and stronger as part of a more resilient Nation."

Several of the policies and principles developed by the Task Force are in alignment with President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, released in June 2013. The 69 recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, are divided into several policy priorities. The Rebuilding Strategy names lead and support agencies in charge of implementing each recommendation, and the current status of implementation. Highlights of the Task Force recommendations include:

  • Promoting Resilient Rebuilding through Innovative Ideas and a Thorough Understanding of Current and Future Risk:
    • Facilitate the incorporation of future risk assessment, such as sea level rise, into rebuilding efforts with the development of a sea level rising tool. (Recommendation 1)
  • Ensuring a Regionally Coordinated, Resilient Approach to Infrastructure Investment:
    • Establish guidelines to ensure those projects are situated and built to withstand the impacts of existing risks and future climate change, in the region, and across the country. (Recommendations 4 and 5)
    • Make the electrical grid smarter and more flexible, and protect the liquid fuel supply chain to better prepare them for future storms and other threats. (Recommendations 12, 13 and 14)
    • Develop a resilient power strategy for wireless and data communications infrastructure and consumer equipment. (Recommendation 16)
    • States and localities should adopt and enforce the most current version of the International Building Code and the International Residential Code. (Recommendation 25)
  • Building State and Local Capacity to Plan for and Implement Long-Term Recovery and Rebuilding:
    • Support regional planning efforts underway in New York and New Jersey to create and implement locally-created and federally funded strategies for rebuilding and strengthening their communities against future extreme weather. (Recommendations 58 and 59)

Additional recommendation sections in the Rebuilding Strategy include "Restoring and Strengthening Homes and Providing Families with Safe, Affordable Housing Options," "Supporting Small Businesses and Revitalizing Local Economies," "Addressing Insurance Challenges, Understanding, and Affordability," and "Improving Data Sharing between Federal, State, and Local Officials." Together, the 69 policy recommendations for decision makers provide an important roadmap to promote more resilient communities in the Northeast. Most strategies could be adopted more broadly to other regions, strengthening overall national resilience.

See the full Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy

Author: Mengpin Ge