“Global average sea level has risen by about 7-8 inches (about 16-21cm) since 1990, with about 3 of those inches (about 7 cm) occurring since 1993.” Since both the ocean and the atmosphere are getting warmer, global sea levels are projected to rise at an increased rate over the coming centuries. Unsurprisingly, rise in sea level disproportionately negatively impacts coastal communities. For instance, a combination of high magnitude storms and sea level rise causes dangerous flooding to occur farther inland than in the past. Higher sea levels will also cause communities to flood more frequently around high tide even in the absence of precipitation, a phenomenon known as “sunny day flooding.” “In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in relatively high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.”

The aforementioned situation has forced the federal government to take a larger role in ensuring that coastal communities become more “resilient.” Government agencies facilitate this objective by providing federal grants to states and localities or partnering in infrastructure projects to achieve resilience in local communities. To qualify for federal funding, federal agencies require that applicants include a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) in their grant applications, or as part of the project feasibility study. Numerous factors, including the method used to conduct the BCA can influence low to moderate income (LMI) communities’ ability to receive funding. In an effort to shed more light on this issue, this white paper analyzes select federal funding programs of three government agencies: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The paper also aims to summarize how these agencies conduct their BCAs, illustrating their similarities and differences; demonstrate how BCAs are used in real-life application through the case studies of City Line Apartments, Chesterfield Heights, and Norfolk and the Lafayette River; provide recommendations to localities on how to more effectively apply for grants or project funding; and lastly, make recommendations on how to better structure federal agencies’ BCAs to ensure that projects involving LMI communities are fairly evaluated.

This abstract has been taken from Section I of the paper.

Document Type

Social Vulnerability and Environmental Justice

Publication Date

Fall 2019