By: Amanda Menas
After Hurricane Florence awoke a need for District residents to be more prepared to protect their homes, the D.C. government spoke out about the District’s resilience.
Kevin Bush, D.C.’s chief resilience officer, reports that with the increasing frequency and security risk of high intensity storms, he is happy to say the city is doing quite a bit to address everything from heat waves to rising sea levels.
As D.C. is a delta city, bordered by the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, ensuring residents are reporting clogged sewer drains and cleaning their downspouts were major concerns from both the Office of the City Administrator (OCA) and DC Water. The primary suggestion for residents is to sign up for Be Ready DC prior to emergencies.
One of the major projects the city has undergone over the last year to prevent flooding is the construction of the Anacostia River Tunnel Project. It extends from RFK Stadium to Poplar Point in order to divert raw sewage from the Anacostia River.
According to the OCA, “Not since the construction of the original sewer system in the early 1900’s and the Metro has the District seen construction of this magnitude. In March 2018, upon completion of this first phase of the Clean Rivers Project, combined sewer overflows to the Anacostia River have now been reduced by 81 percent.”
Bush also highlighted Climate Ready DC as an initiative, which focuses on different ways climate change will affect the District. The organization, a branch of the DC Department of Energy and Environment, highlighted the Watts Branch in Ward 7 and Southwest as at-risk areas for future flooding.
Climate Ready DC’s Plan to Adapt to a Changing Climate sets out specific goals. It focuses on the housing sector — which included evaluating the public housing portfolio for vulnerabilities, supporting easy access to a mix of housing types, and creating public-private partnerships to groups building affordable housing units
Along with construction of the Anacostia River Tunnel and the addition of Climate Ready DC, local emergency response teams worked with other mid-Atlantic cities during an exercise earlier in 2018. They worked together to prepare to be more resilient to natural disasters such as hurricanes.
As resilience in a city is not just about preparedness for natural disasters, but chronic stressors, Bush is focused on changes in the environmental, technological, and economic sectors of the city. He is taking steps to address these changes.