The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that over the next two decades alone, it will cost roughly $2 trillion to adequately maintain the nation’s existing flood control, wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.
Even with more expensive flood control projects than we can afford, flooding and flood-related damage continue to rise. Flood levels historically witnessed once every 100 years are now showing up much more often.
With additional flooding comes increased property loss, more federal disaster assistance, and higher flood insurance costs.
Fiscal conservatives should be the ones leading the charge to reverse this trend and make wetlands protection a higher priority.
The first President George Bush, recognizing the importance of wetlands for everything from flood control to hunting, adopted a “no net loss” policy for wetlands. And while that has been the stated goal of every administration since, we continue to lose wetlands at an alarming rate.
The regulatory confusion stemming from the Rapanos decision has only sped up that loss, making the rule proposed by EPA and the Corps both reasonable and necessary.
Interest groups that oppose the rule, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the International Council of Shopping Centers, are letting short-sighted parochial interests trump sound judgment.
Our nation’s federal agencies and its elected lawmakers are entrusted to look at wetlands protection through different lenses; through the wider lens of collective public interests, and the longer lens of fiscal sustainability.
We have already lost over half of the wetlands that existed when our nation was founded. We simply cannot afford to lose those that remain.
Sherwood Boehlert is a Republican who represented New York’s 24th District in Congress from 1983 to 2007 and was Chairman of the House Science Committee. He is a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center.