On August 10, 2022–the day before a relatively minor thunderstorm unleashed widespread, damaging floods across Washington, DC–the District’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, announced that the District of Columbia secured $20 million in new funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to continue its path towards a climate resilient future.
These federal funds will support the District’s effort to endure rising sea levels and more severe natural hazards. This work is timely and urgent as the District has seen increased rainfall and more frequent storms in recent years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecasted above-average hurricane activity along the east coast for several years running.
“For our city to endure future climate risk, we need to take bold action today,” said Mayor Bowser. “As we continue positioning DC to thrive in the face of a changing climate, this funding will support our ongoing efforts to build a more sustainable and resilient DC.”
The funding was provided through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, which helps communities fund mitigation actions to combat climate change and protect communities that are vulnerable to disaster.
The DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) submitted several projects for consideration, of which five were selected. These selections will make funding available to sub-applicants which include the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), Department of Transportation (DDOT), Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), and DC Water:
- DOEE – Project Scoping for FloodSmart Homes Retrofit totaling $244,053 in federal share, $76,266.66 local. This project is to complete assessments of homes that are at risk of flood damage. For more information and to sign up today for a free resilience assessment and potential home improvement funding, click here.
- DOEE – Project Scoping for DC Kenilworth Park/Watts Branch Environmental Study totaling $300,000 in federal share, $500,000 local. This multiyear project intends to design and conduct an environmental assessment of Kenilworth Park which will lead to the restoration of up to 21 acres of tidal wetlands in the lower Watts Branch, a tributary to the Anacostia River that is prone to flooding.
- DDOT – Project Scoping for Living Shoreline in Buzzard Point neighborhood in SW totaling $242,987 in federal share, $132,013 local. This multiyear project plans to develop a comprehensive flood protection along Buzzard Point to reduce building and property damage, as well as protect the area’s transportation infrastructure to maintain its function during and after flood events.
- DPR – Project Scoping for Recreation Center Resilience Hubs totaling $212,960 in federal share, $66,550 local. The goal is to develop a framework for city recreation centers to serve as Resilience Hubs. These hubs would provide critical services such as food and water, internet access, charging stations, heat, and air conditioning, basic first aid, refrigeration for medications, cleaning supplies, and important recovery information.
- DC Water – Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant (AWTP) Floodwall totaling $20,319,075 in federal share, $8,708,175 local. This project supports construction of a floodwall around the wastewater treatment plant, which will enhance resilience against predicted sea level rise. The plant services over 2 million people in the District, Maryland, and Virginia.
“FEMA applauds the hard work Washington, DC put into their grant request. The floodwall mitigation at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant will protect this vital piece of critical infrastructure against a 500-year flood event as well as wave action and predicted sea level rise,” said FEMA Regional Administrator MaryAnn Tierney. “As a result, communities in the District of Columbia will be more prepared for and resilient from disasters.”
The District has demonstrated continued success in obtaining hazard mitigation grants from FEMA. In 2021, the District was successful in garnering a record amount of FEMA grants.
One of the projects was to pilot a microgrid at the Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center, GW Health at the St. Elizabeths Campus to provide sustainable power and enhance community resilience.
“Once again, our partners at FEMA have demonstrated their commitment to helping achieve Mayor Bowser’s vision of a climate resilient DC. These projects are just part of our whole-community strategy to enhance climate resilience,” said HSEMA Director Christopher Rodriguez.
“The realities of climate change call on all our residents and businesses to begin thinking about preparedness and resilience. While HSEMA focuses on the broader community, residents and businesses can begin their preparedness journey today by visiting ready.dc.gov,” he concluded.
FEMA’s continued selection of mitigation projects in the District is no coincidence. The DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency has carefully navigated FEMA’s process and aggressively pursued federal funds to help prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.
Photos of flooding in Washington DC courtesy of DOEE.