Photo by Matthew Kraus/flickr
Cars awash on 15th Street in lower Manhattan, New York City, during Superstorm Sandy.

A task force of the American Society of Civil Engineers, formed to assess the nation's response to the ASCE's eight years of repeated, urgent calls to improve flood risk management as a national priority, delivered its report on Sept. 22 with the finding that there has been only limited progress.

But the ASCE committee delivered an analysis of why progress is lacking and, significantly, provided a set of recommendations for getting things moving. The group's report is titled "Flood Risk Management: Call for a National Strategy."

The ASCE formed the task force on flood-safety policies and practices early in 2012 to gauge the effects of flood-risk-management recommendations made by the society and others in recent years, following Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans and subsequent flooding disasters.

The editor of the document, Robert Traver, a civil engineering professor at Villanova University, presented the report in Philadelphia and summed it up, saying, "Have we learned the lessons? Why the heck aren't we doing it?"

The report concludes that there is no national vision on how to proceed, no consistent set of national standards for assessing flood risk at the local level and a lack of funding for the programs authorized by Congress.

The group's report offers an eight-point list of short-term actions that would affect all levels of government and society. Among them:

— The president and Congress should jointly develop a coherent and sustainable funding strategy for infrastructure maintenance and renewal, including non-structural flood-risk-management activities at the federal, state and local level.

— The ASCE itself should help develop that funding strategy by identifying means for "full funding" of approved water projects, including shared funding packages.

— Congress should fund the National Flood Vulnerability Study it authorized, but did not fund, in 2007.

— Federal agencies should collaborate to develop specific pilot projects that demonstrate the long-term benefits of flood risk management and mitigation using the principles of resilience, natural-systems utilization and integrated watershed management.