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Major Disaster Infrastructure Requests Are Multiplying

Nov. 5, 2017 (EIRNS)—Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Nov. 2, "I am recommending the building of a major new dam and reservoir at Cypress Creek" just northwest of Houston. "We cannot afford to wait ten years for the Army Corps to build this reservoir. We should meet the infrastructure needs now." This dam and reservoir, among a number of new ones needed along the rivers running into the Texas Gulf Coast to prevent repeated flooding disasters, is part of the $61 billion requested from Congress Nov. 1 by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, of which about $35 billion was for new water management infrastructure.

At the same hearing, Rep. Blake Farenthold, whose district includes Rockport where Hurricane Harvey made landfall, said, "Levies and reservoirs have been unfunded for years. Had they been done, the damage and loss of life would have been much less."

Congressional sources told EIR that Florida is now preparing a similarly major request for infrastructure-building funding from the Federal government, with a particular emphasis on flood control around Jacksonville but covering many needed projects in the state.

And the Trump Administration made a major announcement Nov. 3 about Puerto Rico, which effectively commits the Federal government to build new, modern economic infrastructure on the island. President Trump signed an executive order, based on an agreement with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to pay for 90% of the costs of building new power and other infrastructure, and beginning a process of lending Puerto Rico the remaining 10%. A White House official was quoted by Reuters Nov. 4, "Obviously it's going to be a big dollar figure. I know there won't be any balking at the amount of money needed from the administration." Reuters reported the order uses the Stafford Act (national emergency and disaster funds) in an unprecedented way, and

"The procedures will allow Puerto Rico to estimate the costs of big projects up front—with help from third-party advisers—and draw down from approved grants.... The agreement will also allow Puerto Rico to access hazard mitigation grants"

so that the structures are resilient to future storms.

The White House will request another emergency supplemental from Congress this month or in early December. But there is really only one way to fund this national infrastructure response quickly, and that is through a national credit institution like President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Reconstruction Finance Corporation or, better, a "Hamiltonian" national bank.