As many of you know, a canal levee ruptured in Nevada and flooded hundreds of homes. Thirty five hundred people were stranded. Loki discusses a possible cause of the rupture, and reminds us about an important point Harry Shearer made in this Levees.org ad:
Joejoejoe-- frequent commenter and friend of YRHT-- wrote me about this, saying:
This event highlights the need for a comprehensive US infrastructure policy that is less about pork and more about maintenance. Maybe this will get NV Sen. Harry Reid off his ass on NOLA and Gulf Coast issues.
Yes. And beyond that, Nevada holds a Democratic candidate debate on January 15th, four days before the caucuses. Perhaps the candidates will receive a question about flood control infrastructure.
I've been poking around looking for other people's thoughts on how infrastructure is funded and found this cool book called The Edge of Disaster by Stephen Flynn. Flynn is a Council on Foreign Relations geek with big disaster and infrastructure creds.
From a review of the book from a Navy journal: ...building the resilience of U.S. infrastructure “supports the national security imperative of confronting the ongoing terrorist threat.” Flynn argues that making our infrastructure less vulnerable to attack (and less likely to cause massive economic dislocation and casualties infrastructure if struck) reduces the attractiveness of such attacks to terrorists, and therefore reduces their likelihood. Investment in infrastructure benefits both security and economic growth. Framed in this way, embracing national resilience “can engender widespread public support.” (p. xxi-iv)
The book notes that President Dwight D. Eisenhower achieved such a “twofer” with the interstate highway system. Eisenhower justified the vast public works project as essential to national security, and argued that the interstate system would provide enormous economic benefits (especially for rural areas). For Flynn, Eisenhower’s strategy provides a model of how support might be built for resilience funding.
Flynn talks a lot about 'resilience' as a strategy for improving infrastructure that encompasses both community and security interests. How to deal with the porkmongers in DC?
Flynn proposes that Congress create an Infrastructure Resiliency Trust Fund to restore U.S. infrastructure. The funding required for that restoration effort will be enormous. Flynn notes that, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, rebuilding U.S. infrastructure will cost $300 billion per year (though for how many years that level of effort would need to be sustained, he does not say). But any such funding would be at risk of being diverted by legislators to their home districts, in support of projects that enhance their prospects for re-election but do little or nothing to strengthen overall U.S. resilience. Flynn emphasizes that “members of Congress are content to treat funding for capital investment as so much pork to be divvied up among their districts.” (p. 110)
To limit the impact of pork on congressional decision-making, Flynn proposes borrowing from the example of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Congress appointed an independent BRAC commission to identify bases for closure, thereby limiting the ability of individual legislators to protect bases in their own districts (and enabling them to escape at least some of the blame from voters if their bases were indeed closed). Flynn proposes that Congress establish an Infrastructure Resiliency Commission along the same lines, which would identify investment priorities “regardless of which congressional district a project will reside in.”
Sounds good to me. Congress would hate it because it gives them less discretion. But you know what? Congress works for the people. Something that can be done immediately is make maintenance and upkeep the #1 priority of every committee that does infrastructure in Congress. The Brooklyn Bridge is 125 years old and still right as rain because it's well maintained. Whatever sound infrasturcture we have in this country should be maintained indefinitely as we triage the big problems like levees, the power grid, bridges, ports and so forth.
i think if a candidate promised to elevate infrastructure to war-on-terror levels, he/she'd make a lot of allies. that kind of mission would actually create jobs, with visible results, and it'd be hard to attack such a stance.