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tv   Washington Journal Matthew Eby  CSPAN  October 16, 2021 11:07am-11:53am EDT

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brookings institute fellow and wall street journal economist discusses only the rich can play. >> opportunity zones create 8764 tax payments across the country. they gave wealthy people an incentive to put their money in those poor communities in exchange for capital gains tax break. unfortunately, we don't know how much money has gone into them as a result of reconciliation, which is now a household word in washington. a provision that requires reporting was stripped out. i would say that based on the stuff that i said we are talking about tens of millions of dollars going into opportunity zones. unfortunately, i think that the bulk of the money has gone into zones that didn't really need the money. they were already improving. it is a project that probably would have been built anyway. >> only the rich can play sunday
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on c-span's q and a. you can listen on our podcasts and c-span now app. >> washington journal continues. we are back and we are with matthew eby who is the founder and executive director of the 1st street foundation. he is discussing a new report on potential impact of flooding can have a major infrastructure in the united states. good morning. guest: good morning. host: tell us what the 1st street foundation is. guest: it is a nonprofit for research and technology, to be more specific. we work specifically on flooding right now. for the last five years, we have built nationally available hydrodynamic flood models for the country.
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then we apply those statistics and that model to every piece of residential real estate, commercial real estate, structure, things of that nature to understand the likelihood of flooding today and how that might change over the next 30 years. host: where does the 1st street foundation get its money? how are you funded? guest: we are supported by a great family foundation. five dollars and $10 donation requests and the grantham foundation, the high tide foundation. the larger family foundations that support us. host: let's get into the new report. it is a concerning report. the usa today wrote a story based on your report, and i want to put that headline that was pulled on screen here. one fourth of u.s.
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infrastructure is at risk of flood. tell us exactly what that report found. guest: a concerning title, to say the least. what we have done is we took that model we just mentioned and, originally, we looked at properties across the united states to figure out how many properties had flood risk. for this report, we spent the last year looking at operational risk, and what i mean by that is, we are trying to figure out at what point water gets too high for a building or a piece of infrastructure. what we did, once we had all of the properties, was we pocketed the properties and five groups. residential properties, commercial, social infrastructure in a bucket. places of worship, museums, government buildings, your local schools, things that are a
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backbone of a community, if you will. critical infrastructure. utilities, the police stations, hospitals, things you cannot have fail for a city to operate. things that you cannot have fled because then they will have a detrimental effect to the community. hazardous waste sites, wastewater treatment facilities. those types of things that, once water floods, it is a horrific impact for the community. roads. we took all of the roads across the country and we broke them up into one meter segments to figure out at which point, which segments of roads might flood. in all five we mentioned, we then said at which point will infrastructure fail? the hospital is built to 3.5 feet of protection. if the waters below that, the hospital should function.
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once it is passed that threshold , it is inoperable. we are looking at the operable threshold. look at a road -- if it has six inches of water on it, cars cannot drive on it. that is the impassable threshold for a road. something like a police station with a foot of water. it can withstand a foot of water because her desk before it becomes inoperable. we looked at these things to make it impassable, and we deemed it inoperable if it was like we -- likely to exceed that property or road or whatever. with all of those things calculated, we then looked at each group and we found, virtually, critical infrastructure, the most critical, just by the name itself, it has the most risk. one in four pieces of critical
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infrastructure are not built to a standard that would protect it from becoming inoperable, given the current flood projections. host: i want our viewers to see exactly what you found and how many pieces of critical infrastructure would be in trouble. looking at the report, this is what we see. the united states has 2 million miles of road. they are at risk of flooding. 12.4 million residential properties. 919,000 commercial properties. 71,000 government buildings, churches, etc.. 36,000 airports, fire stations, etc.. these properties -- are these properties that are in low-lying areas, coastal areas? or is this around the united states?
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guest: when you think of flooding, you think of florida, texas, louisiana -- but what we have found is it is a nationwide trouble. places that you would not think of flooding, like west virginia or tennessee. these places are impacted by flooding -- infrastructure, roads. they are impacted in a severe way. if not higher than other states. the reason is because there is a lot of precipitation. rain flooding. when rain falls down on these higher elevation areas, it flows into certain crevices. when you have tributaries and rivers that overflow, that is where you see that we do not have a model in this country are the current fema standards for participation -- precipitation flooding. they are not in the hazard area.
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because of that standard, and the higher likelihood of flooding, you end up with a lot of critical infrastructure that is inappropriate for the level that we have. host: how are you determining that these areas are at potential flood risk? are you only looking at areas that have flooded before? are you taking climate change calculations? which areas can flood, or these are the places that have flooded? guest: what we have done is look at historical flooding. places that have flooded in the past inform our model. then we have a hydrodynamic model. if ansell -- fancy engineering model across the country. we look at the topography of area or elevation so we know whether water makes it -- from the sky or the ocean. where it would flow.
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based on that, we can project where the flood risk would be in the country, based on historical events, but also an understanding of what the current environment and current risk. with a baseline understanding, which we understand from a very unlikely or very likely event. where we would expect water to be every two years. we take the baseline model and we projected into the future based on the intergovernmental catalog of climate change or rcp curves. what do we expect the environment to look like over the next few years? how will that impact flooding? we project scenarios. not just one scenario, but here are the likely scenarios. , based on the curves.
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we have an understanding of today's risk and the future risk. we have the current risk and we understand that and projected 30 years into the future for a. of a mortgage to give a good understanding of what the risk might be over that lifetime of the home or the road or a piece of infrastructure. host: let me remind her viewers that you can take part in this conversation about flood risk for united states infrastructure. we are going to open up regional lines. that means if you live in the eastern or central time zone, you can call in at (202) 748-8000. if you live in the mountain or pacific time zones, you can call in at (202) 748-8001. keep in mind you can always text at (202) 748-8003, and we are always reading on twitter and twitter -- facebook.
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your report uses the term operational risk. when looking at the potential impact, what exactly does operational risk mean? guest: operational risk is the definition by the government, that if there is a certain amount of water at the building, it will not be able to function anymore. when you think about this for airport, for example, the faa says that if there is a foot of water, planes cannot land, and that airport cannot operate anymore. the operational threshold for an airport is 12 inches. for hospitals, as mentioned earlier, three and a half feet. it is much more critical for a hospital operate under all extreme situations. that is where we will send people if there is an emergency. it has a higher threshold.
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each governing body has a regulation to the structure type to make sure it is built to the standards we deem appropriate. that is what we apply when we look at all of the individual pieces of infrastructure, social info structure, commercial buildings, residential buildings , and roads themselves. they understand the risk overall. host: has climate change pushed flooding into areas that we would not have considered flood prone in previous decades? guest: yes. the interesting way of thinking about all of this is that when we have risks, or we are looking at building a piece of infrastructure, building a home. whatever it might be. we look at the current level of risk. based on all of the scenarios,
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what is the likelihood of flooding for the height i am building. i am going to build to the standard that protects against that. it is dependent on the standard which you are building, but if you did that 30 years ago, and that standard, the one and 100 events or 1% offense, -- events, and the environment as changes, it is more likely for a river to flood, then it does not a 1% standard anymore. the likelihood is higher now. given that, a lot of homes are no longer safe because of the change in risk at the standard anymore. that is the historical moving of risk that now brings these things into a higher likelihood of flooding and becoming inoperable or just being flooded
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and having an impact on homeowners. host: in your report, you do point to several areas of the country that are at high risk. i want to read a little bit from the risk -- report that point that out. the predominant patterns of high-risk exists in the coastal areas of the southeastern united states and along the appalachian mountain region of the country. specifically, the highest concentration of community risks exist in the state of louisiana, florida, kentucky, and west virginia. i can easily understand louisiana and florida. they are on the coast. what is happening in kentucky and west virginia that causes such a high risk? guest: this is the idea of a standard we build to. when you think of that, for the majority of structures in the country, are building standards
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are based off of fema's flood elevation. based off of our floodplains, how high should we be building structures that are in them, and if it is outside of the floodplain, it is not necessarily a high risk or higher standard we have to build to? . that is how we have been operating. they do not account for precipitation flooding by itself. there is remodeling or ocean flooding from storm surges. high tides or nor'easter's. they do not model precipitation by themselves. that is how models are created and they have been doing it since 1968 when the program was originally started. the idea there is that because of precipitation not being modeled in, and precipitation patterns, rain patterns, they
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shifted dramatically, we end up with lower building standards and higher results. our model has modeled rain and precipitation in itself to say we are -- where are the areas where if there is a one in 100 or 500 rain events like we just experienced. what is the risk? infrastructure was built to lower stairs because it was not taken into account, they are at extreme risk of becoming inoperable. that is why we see west virginia and kentucky at high risk. these mountainous areas where the rain falls at higher elevations and full through inflows into lower lying land, creating flooding events we have seen as of late. host: let's let our viewers take part in this conversation. we will start with one of our
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social media followers who has a question for you, matthew. the question is, most electric generating plants are built near water. are any of them in imminent danger of being flooded? guest: you can see with that as an example, each type of utility is brought into our model. we created a tool called flood factor. if you go to flood, you can type in your home address, your zip code, your neighborhood, your city, york county, and it will show you what is at risk. if you type in norfolk, virginia, and you look at the city overall on the map, you can change the different dimensions of risk to infrastructure risk or social risk or residential properties, commercial, like i was talking earlier. with infrastructure, you can see
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what is specifically at risk. utilities, or the electrical power plants that you are talking about. a lot of them are built by water, like ports are on the water. but wastewater treatment facilities or waterfalls, those are all also by the water. a ton of them are at risk. this is the idea that you have to have these critical pieces of infrastructure near water for good reasons, but that brings with it a lot of risk. host: let's let some of our callers take part in the conversation. tom in harrisburg, pennsylvania. good morning. caller: good morning. this is very important for all of us to listen to because it comes down to money. i am in central pennsylvania and like your guest said, in harrisburg, we have a one in 80
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flood. flooding is the only natural disaster not covered by property insurance. you have to get flood insurance. you are required. it is thrown onto your mortgage. flood insurance covers nothing. immovable objects only, like washers, dryers, furnaces. anything flood water touches in your house, you have to get rid of and the flood insurance covers nothing and it is expensive. mine was an extra $300 a month on insurance. guest: flood insurance is a tricky one. as the viewer pointed out, flood insurance is not part of the normal homeowner insurance policy. if you are looking to get a policy for floods, there are two
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important questions. are you in and essential flood -- in a central flood hazard area? if you are in a special flood hazard area, you will be mandated to buy it. it is mandated to be purchased as part of the mortgage. if you have a federally backed mortgage, they will ensure that you have flood insurance because you are in that high-risk zone and they want to make sure that mortgage is safe if something happens. then there are people outside of the area who can still be in a high-risk area. there are a lot of properties in this bucket. if you are in that bucket, it is a bit cheaper to get policy previously that it was. on october 1, the government started a new program called the national flood insurance program. this is a new program that
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prices insurance based on the actual risk or property. now, a new pricing system is in effect. everything is repriced based on the risk to the property. if you have a high-risk home, your price will go up. in the past, if you have been paying a higher price but you have a lower risk, your price will go down. that all just started this month. the biggest change we have seen in the past 50 years to national flood insurance programs which cover the vast majority of insurance policies across the country. it is an interesting shakeup going on which is a pricing change we need because there have been homes with lower risk that have been paying too much or the opposite. we have expensive homes on the coast that have not been paying their fair share.
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they have been able to get it for a cheap price. it is really the flood insurance policies, you are actually right. they do not cover the content to the extent that a lot of people think. it is important to know the details of your policy. also, the other thing that is important for the viewers to know is that there is a whole new pricing scheme being rolled out right now around -- that will impact millions of americans. host: as callers calling, i will be looking up your city. for harrisburg, pennsylvania, it says that 6148 properties in harrisburg have a greater than 26% chance of being severely flooded or affected by flooded over the next 30 years. this represents 31% of all properties in the city. overall, harrisburg has a severe risk of flooding over the next 30 years, meaning flooding is
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likely to impact day-to-day life within the community. you can look up your city at flood one of our social media followers has a question about how you figure out what will happen in the future. the follower says, those future models you are using -- when does the prediction accuracy become unreliable? when does it start to become nonsense? like hurricane forecast paths can get pretty out of whack just a week out. how do you deal with what will happen in the future? guest: that is a great question. the first thing that we do is we look at what are called rcp forecasts. that is an acronym for
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representative concentration pathways. it is a fancy way of saying what are the emission scenarios for the future? how much co2, gases in the air, and how will that change? we created global climate ensemble which is all of these different ways of looking at what the outcomes will be in those scenarios. there is a doomsday scenario, which is a curve. then there is a picture scenario which is a 2.6 curve. you have curves doing this, and social media viewers point out that it is dramatically different in the future. if you are looking 100 years out, which these curves go out to, it is a very different scenario and outcome. when you think about it, and the way we look at it, we are not
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100% sure what is going to happen 100 years from now, and we do not forecast that far out. what we for cars -- forecast out is 30 years. we use the thirty-year scenario because of the. period of a mortgage. what will happen over that time? then we look at the rcp curves and they are a lot tighter after 30 years. the emission scenarios are a lot closer together on different scenarios that might happen. within that, modeling those scenarios, we have all of them together. what is the high-end, what is the midrange, and what is the low? if you are on flood factor. you are looking at the properties in your area, you will have under the forecasted likelihood, a high or low percentage.
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it will give you a range. there is uncertainty in the forecast so you can see the worst case scenario, if those things happen, here is the level of floodwater you can expect under a 1%. on the low end, here's the level of water you can expect if the emission scenario are much lower's in the future. it gives you a range of uncertainty that can inform their decisions. we do not absently know if it will be 1.2 feet of water to your building. we believe that you have a 1% likelihood of a 1.5 foot of water to .5 feet of water. host: two of the cities you pointed out that ranked high on several factors were new arlen's -- new orleans. one of our social media followers wants you to comment on the predictions for new orleans.
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let's start with louisiana and new orleans. what causes them to rank so high and have so many high factors? guest: the actual area in new orleans is below sea level. looking at the elevation perspective, just by pure virtue of the height of the land, it is a substantial risk. the water is going to flow to the lowest point of elevation. when you are below sea level, you are at a much higher risk. with that, eat -- there are a lot of protections built in there. there are a lot of levees and things that will ensure that the area is protected. all of those things are built to what is called a different standard. you can think of it as -- i have a home and the pump that i have can pump a certain amount of water. that water pump will protect me
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from a certain amount of flooding. the standard can be up to a one into event or a one in five event. but in a certain point, the pump will not be able to pump out enough water for what is coming in. that pump might be built to a one in 20 standard. in new orleans that is the same thing. they build a system and levees to a certain standard. ida came through and it was a horrific hurricane, very intense. the levee system held up, which was great. the downside was that the utility was knocked off and the power went out. that was one of the repercussions in the critical infrastructure we were talking about. but the levees held up. what we forecast with our model, unfortunately, for the area, is that because the sea level rises
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and the intensity of the storms are changing, that standard that is protecting the area will not hold up in the adequate -- and be adequate for the future scenarios we have coming. because it will not hold up, it is showing a tremendous amount of risk for the area. we have one of two things to do. we can accept that, which i don't think anyone, including the person asking the question, thinks is the right way. we can continue to build the of the structure. we will have to build to a higher standard and if the client is changing, the risk is increasing, and the levee system will be inadequate in the future. at what point do we start to rebuild against those levee systems because we know that there will be a higher risk in the current standard it is built to which is inadequate to the future? host: back to our phone lines. marta from manhattan in new york city. good morning.
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caller: good morning. i have two questions. i am looking at the map. my building would be dry, however, all around the edge of manhattan would be flooded. my question is, these predictions -- how do they apply to the bridge systems and, i think, manhattan would get all of its infrastructure flooded from underneath, like the sewers and electric. bridges interest me because we are bridge bound. guest: tear point, the infrastructure in manhattan, as we saw, sticking with the example, the infrastructure underneath, the subway system, or where all of the water started to flow -- we had tremendous amounts of flooding in manhattan, especially around central park. even in new jersey, newark was
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rendered inoperable. that is what i was talking about earlier on. newark was not able to operate because of the level of flooding that was on the river. that is the same type of concept. to your question, what does it look like for new york? this is the subway system starting to flood -- fail from the flooding. the bridges themselves are a different type of infrastructure. because they are elevated at such a high level, they are over the water, if you will. the systems, the infra-structure that holds them, our models are forecasting that they will be impacted. our models are forecasting the first part of the question that you had around your building. what is underneath. the coastal areas. the subway system and the infrastructure in manhattan is
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built underground. that is where the water will flow. the big question is, will the storm system go over the standard? that's what we saw with ida. we saw flooding because the infrastructure that could take water away from the city was not made to withstand the amount of water coming in and such a short. . period. you had something called the idf curve. intensity, duration, frequency. when you have a ton of water falling in a very short. of time, the likelihood that your sewer systems were built to handle it is low. it is a different event and we are used to when we are building a sewer system decades ago. the change in the environment, the type of storms we are seeing today, it is a different thing than the standard we built them
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two decades ago. that is where we see all the flooding. host: let's talk to vivian in tennessee. good morning. caller: the morning. i was calling to talk about [indiscernible] we had a tornado that came through. people lost their lives. a man was trying to hold onto his twins. the water swept them away. the water swept them away. it was coming through walls like i never saw before. another thing, are bridge in tennessee and arkansas. it was cracked. just imagine what would happen if all of those people coming across the bridge would drown. our representative is against the bill. i want to know why.
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host: go ahead and respond. guest: that is a horrible situation that you are talking about. i am sorry that you had to go through that, and it is not flooding in one element. you meant -- mentioned tornadoes and wildfires. we are seeing a lot of risks take place across the country and our infrastructure is at risk. artifice structure is not holding up. there is a bill, as the caller mentioned, that mentions critical infrastructure across the country and is trying to build to a higher standard and fortify the infrastructure and harden. those are needed dollars -- the money and how the bills are being passed is not something that we focus on, but i can tell you, based on our finding and the data, the critical
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infrastructure and social infrastructure, the roads themselves, bridges, as the caller mentioned, those things are at risk, and they definitely need money. they need to be built to a higher standard or reinforced. i definitely agree that we need to be thinking about how to put money into these things, but i believe our data allows us to see the level to which we need this money because you can see what is at risk, and i hope all the members of congress or the congresswoman represent her district, they will be able to look at this and understand why these dollars might be needed and think of that in terms of the constituents in their district. host: let's talk about what is in the bill for flood mitigation. in that bill is 3.5 billion for
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fema for flood mitigation actions and assistance. you also have $492 million for flood mapping and forecasting for the oceanic and atmospheric administration. another $80 million for noaa for the detection of droughts, floods and wildfires. is that enough money? can you start taking care of this problem? guest: it's a great question. the answer is, i'm not sure. we just finished our modeling across all of the country to understand what is at risk today. now, there is a secondary analysis that can start to be done on what we were trying to fortify the we were trying to harden against this risk. but would that cost? the dollars and cents that go
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into that -- i do not know what the specific numbers, i cannot tell you if it is enough. but i can tell you what the risks are and where we see them. the restaurant fema and those dollars, those are for specific problems which are definitely needed. our model is dependent on those types of organizations providing data so we can do the root -- work, so we can create a model and tell you about the level of risk, if it was not for things like noaa who create baseline data using taxpayer dollars so we could leverage them and as a nonprofit, run a different analysis and pass it out for free. those types of investments in data and understanding are critical, but to the big question of how much is enough for infrastructure, or is enough, i am not sure. host: let's talk to joe from
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charleston, island. -- rhode island. good morning. caller: greed and stupidity cannot be solved with money. what we are dealing with is that the earth is a living organism. if you approach a mother grizzly bear with her cubs, she will kill you. this is what we have done to the earth. we continue doing it. we need to build smarter in the floodplains or we will be wiped out. we need to get people out of the flood canals. you can't build on an avalanche. you cannot build were tornadoes occur. we have millions of people coming in here, illegally and legally, and their polluting with a complete disregard for mother earth. host: is the solution to just
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stop building where there might be a flood? guest: there is an interesting item that came out of the white house this week, which was the domestic climate policy with a view of, we need to rethink where we are building and the standards to which we are building when it comes to floods. that is exactly what we are talking about here. what i've kind of was talking about earlier -- where are the high-risk stones, and if her some reason we need to build there, or we already built there, how do we start building to a different standard that allows us to ensure that it will not become inoperable or that home will not be damaged if there is a flooding event that we can project will happen today? what is the useful life of the infrastructure of that home? the rethinking and recasting of the idea of where and to what
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standard is actually top of mind for the white house, based on what i saw come out this week, which is a great thing. it is exactly like the caller was asking. we need to really be smart about where we build and how we build up cities and infrastructure and all of those items area we cannot just look at current risk. we have to look at the life of the infrastructure because the risk is not going to be the same today as tomorrow. the whole era needs to be taken into account. host: let's talk to bernie from louisville, kentucky. good morning. caller: hello. i am from louisville, kentucky, and we are on the ohio river. i was looking at the map, and we are 26% possibility of flooding. i had no idea.
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our local utility company, the water company has an underground retention for a lot of flooding since we are close to the river. it comes from overworked and undersized sewer systems, so we get a lot of backflow. are you aware of other cities that might be using that same type of retention method? do you think they are expected? guest: sure. each city is a bit unique when it comes to flooding. i will give you an example. if you look at south florida, it is built on porous limestone. the limestone means that it is like a sponge. water can come up through the ground, if the water level is
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rising. in some areas, like manhattan, where it is built on granite, it cannot have water flow through. you can build a seawall around manhattan. you can protect against flooding from the ocean or hurricanes, storm surges, something like that. the solution for manhattan would not work because if you built a seawall, the water would flow up. each area is completely different, and each area has to be studied to understand whether it is a good solution or does not. on the retention item that you are talking about on a local level, each is so different that it is hard to say that is a good idea or a bad idea, unless you're able to study it. a lot of local engineering firms we partner with provide our model to them to understand and study the area so they can
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decide how to build solutions to protect against that level of flooding. unfortunately, i cannot say, that is a great idea, or it is not enough, because i do not know the specifics. i can tell you that every local project has to account for the flood risk and the type of funding and ability to protect against it, and with all of those elements, you get a solution that maybe dramatically from one town to the next different. host: thank you to matthew, the founder and director of the 1st street foundation for coming on with us and talking about the potential impact flooding will have on the united states. thank you so much for your time this morning. guest: thank you for having me. have a great day. host: coming up, we want to know, once again, what is your
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new story of the week? we will open the phone lines and ask you what we should be looking at, and what american should be looking at as our top story of the week. you can see the numbers on the screen. start calling, we will be right back. ♪ >> next week on the c-span network, the house and senate will be in session. watch on c-span and c-span2. my have coverage at several congressional hearings. on tuesday at 9:30 a.m. live on c-span the senate finance committee considers the nomination of the tucson police chief as the u.s. customs and order protection commissioner. the january 6 vote to refer stephen ban into the justice department for criminal contempt after his refusal to comply with a subpoena before the committee. and then on wednesday, live on
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c-span3 the senate foreign relations committee holds a confirmation hearing for a few nominees. a long time u.s. diplomat who president biden nominated bv the u.s. ambassador to china, and a former congressman, white house she so -- chief of staff, and chicago mayor out for the u.s. ambassador to japan. at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span3, the attorney general merrick garland will make his first appearance before the house judiciary committee on issues facing the justice department. 10:00 a.m. eastern on and on the new c-span now app, homeland security secretary appearing before the senate judiciary committee. watch next week on the c-span network. or you can watch full coverage on c-span now, our new video app. head over to for scheduling information or to stream video, live or on-demand, anytime. c-an


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