How planned retreat is evolving with use of eminent domain

Trump Administration presses cities to evict homeowners from flood zones

The New York Times | Christopher Flavelle The federal government is giving local officials nationwide a painful choice: Agree to use eminent domain to force people out of flood-prone homes, or forfeit a shot at federal money they need to combat climate change. That choice, part of an effort by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect people from disasters, is facing officials from the Florida Keys to the New Jersey coast, including Miami, Charleston, S.C., and Selma, Ala. Local governments seeking federal money to help people leave flood zones must first commit to push out people who refuse to move. […] Eminent domain — the government’s authority to take private property, with compensation, for public use — has long been viewed as too blunt a tool for getting people out of disaster-prone areas. It has a controversial history: Local governments have used it to tear down African-American neighborhoods, as well as to build freeways and other projects over residents’ objections. […] The willingness to use eminent domain shows how quickly the discussion around climate has shifted. Even as President Trump publicly dismisses the scientific consensus of climate change, his administration is wrestling with how to move people out of the way of rising seas and increasingly intense rainfall. Still, threatening to push people out of their houses is an extreme step, experts said. […] The Corps generally pays two-thirds of the cost, which can stretch into billions of dollars. The local government usually pays the rest. As that risk grows because of climate change, the Corps has shifted toward paying local governments to buy and demolish homes at risk of flooding. The logic is that the only surefire way to guarantee the homes won’t flood again is if they no longer exist. But it also uproots people and can destroy communities. As a result, federally funded buyouts have usually been voluntary; residents could decline. But at the end of 2015, the Corps said that voluntary programs were “not acceptable” and that all future buyout programs “must include the option to use eminent domain, where warranted.”