Coastal Georgia — and taxpayers — suffered costly damage from major storms over the past two years. Most of these expenses were caused by hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Irma (2017).

Experts agree that this storm destruction was made worse by public policies that do not provide sufficient incentives for decreasing the risk of developing areas that are in harm’s way.

In November 2017, Moody’s Investors Service released a report warning states and local governments that they must consider natural hazards to reduce related damages and cut costly credit-risks of projects funded by investors.

Moody’s is a highly regarded financial advisor that sets credit-ratings used when issuing bonds for public projects such as roads, bridges and water-sewer systems.

Policy reforms called for by Moody’s will help diminish storm damage, protecting the interests of property owners and Georgia’s economic vitality. Such measures will also improve safeguards for natural resources and our quality-of-life.

Consider several factors at the heart of this issue:

• Average annual current-dollar cost of U.S. hurricane damage in the 21st century is four times greater than the yearly destruction of hurricanes in the 20th century, according to the National Hurricane Center.

• Financial risks of hazards threatening public projects are significantly greater in coastal areas and floodplains.

• Coastal Georgia has a dangerously high proportion of development in areas at high risk, says Moody’s.

State-sponsored, fact-based study of coastal-hazard trends is urgently needed. Likewise, an action plan must be prepared for reducing tax-payer burdens imposed by avoidable risks, consistent with Moody’s report.

David Kyler

Center for a Sustainable Coast

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