HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — As communities across Pennsylvania increasingly experience flooding caused by intense, short-duration storms due to climate change, Governor Tom Wolf announced executive actions that will support communities that are impacted by flooding.
The governor, joined by state Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) and House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) announced a plan that will address flood hazard mitigation by requiring the State Planning Board to develop a series of recommendations and best practices relative to land use, planning, zoning, and stormwater management, with the emphasis on reducing the incidence of flash flooding in communities that impacts citizens and businesses.
The State Planning Board will establish state goals and strategic investments to assist municipalities, which will then be incorporated by state agencies into their appropriate funding applications.
According to a 2015 Department of Environmental Protection Climate Impacts Assessment, Pennsylvania has seen a 10 percent increase in average yearly precipitation over the last century. By 2050, the average yearly precipitation is projected to increase by another 8 percent.
For many parts of the commonwealth, 2018 was the wettest year on record, with heavy rains demonstrating that our flood mitigation planning and infrastructure has not kept up with changing precipitation patterns.
Many of these storms we are experiencing due to climate change are intense over a very short duration. Due to the short duration of these types of storms, the damages from these events rarely reach the thresholds for the commonwealth to request federal disaster aid assistance.
There are two programs within the Federal Emergency Management Agency that can provide federal aid after a flooding disaster: public assistance and individual assistance. Public assistance provides reimbursements to state, county and local governments and eligible nonprofits for costs associated with response and recovery efforts.
Each county included in a public assistance request must meet a cost threshold based on population and, in turn, the commonwealth overall must meet a threshold of $19.5 million in damage costs. Individual assistance includes a wide range of programs for homeowners and renters, including cash grants, housing or home repair assistance.
In 2018 in Pennsylvania, more than 5,000 homes were damaged in a series of incidents, but no single incident met the threshold. That year there was also approximately $63 million in public infrastructure damages alone that were not reimbursable through federal disaster programs.
Additionally, as land is developed for residential and commercial use, stormwater runoff can cause stream impairment.