Louisiana and Genoa – Millions in Unused Mitigation Funds

In two separate parts of the world, the residents of two cities are finding themselves facing an increased risk of flooding as a result of official incompetence.

$812 million in Louisiana, €35 million ($44 million) in Genoa, Italy – flood mitigation funds remain unused as a result of administrative failures.

Genoa

Genoa, the port city in northern Italy, suffered devastating floods on the night of 09 October 2014. One man died in the deluge and the city’s streets were left in chaos, with cars strewn around like toys and the roads 1 metre deep in mud. Genoa’s residents are angry at the fact that a budget of 35 million euros for flood protection and mitigation projects has not been spent. The money was allocated after the city suffered terrible flooding in November 2011 where seven people died.

Cars flosting along the flooded streets of Genoa in 2011. Photo@  Oggi Scienza / Flickr
Cars floating along the flooded streets of Genoa in 2011. Photo@ Oggi Scienza / Flickr

According to Italian new service Ansa, Genoa public prosecutor’s office has opened a probe into possible man-made disaster stemming from incomplete or lacking public works that were supposed to have shored up the city’s flood defences.

“There is anger at the fact that 35 million euros set aside for flood-prevention work after the 2011 disaster were not spent because of legal wrangles and bureaucracy”

Francesco Vincenzi, president of ANBI, (Associazione Nazionale Bonifiche e Irrigazioni – a national association for flooding and water safety) said:

“What is really alarming is how little has been done in three years to make Genoa secure from another flooding disaster….The problem of water security in Italy isn’t mainly to do with resources, it’s about political will and bureaucracy,”

Lack of political will, poor organisation, incompetence, administrative failures are just some of the reasons Italians feel the city of Genoa didn’t spend the allocated 35 million euros on protecting its citizens from floods. The story has stark similarities to one across the Atlantic, in the state of Louisiana.

Louisiana

A report by FEMA last week revealed that the State of Louisiana has failed to make use of $812 million in disaster mitigation money it was given to make its communities more resilient and better prepared for floods, storms, sea level rise, and hurricanes. $567 million of the unused funds date back to 2005 and Hurricane Katrina. Both state and local governments have failed to put together project applications and have repeatedly missed deadlines.

Louisiana is one of the states most vulnerable to climate change and severe weather. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), Gustav (2008), and Ike (2008), as well as smaller flood disasters declared in Louisiana between 2009 and 2011, all prompted FEMA to allocate over $2 billion in mitigation funds.

Furthermore land loss in coastal Louisiana is expected to increase further. As the image below (from NOAA) illustrates, a considerable amount of land has already been lost since 1932. In fact since then the Gulf of Mexico has swallowed 2,300 square miles of the state’s wetlands, an area larger than Delaware.

Sea Level Rises Louisiana
Louisiana Coastal Land Loss since 1932. Image: NOAA