As the United States staggers through another year of devastating wildfires, drought, storms and other calamities, the infrastructure bill before Congress would pour major resources into a response. The measure agreed to over the weekend includes billions of dollars to better prepare the country for the effects of global warming, in what could be the largest investment in climate resilience in American history.
Much of the money would go toward activities that are already underway, but which experts say the government needs to do more of as the threats from climate change increase.
For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would get an additional $11.6 billion in construction funds for projects like flood control and river dredging. The Forest Service would get billions of dollars to remove flammable vegetation from the lands it manages, in efforts to make wildfires less damaging.
Other funding would go toward new approaches. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would get $492 million to map and forecast inland and coastal flooding, including “next-generation water modeling activities.” NOAA would also get $50 million to predict, model and forecast wildfires.
The Department of Transportation would give states money to move highways out of flood-prone areas. The Environmental Protection Agency would pay for communities to relocate drinking water infrastructure at risk from flooding or other extreme weather.
It’s not just infrastructure that would be relocated. The bill would provide $216 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for climate resilience and adaptation for tribal nations, which have been disproportionately hurt by climate change. More than half of that money, $130 million, would go toward “community relocation” — moving groups of Indigenous Americans away from vulnerable areas.
In other cases, the bill seeks to protect the most vulnerable Americans not by moving them, but by ensuring they get a larger share of federal money.
The legislation includes $3.5 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reduce damage from flooding. It specifically gives FEMA the authority to award some of that money to areas with high scores on the “social vulnerability index” — a gauge that reflects poverty levels, the share of racial minorities and other measures.