June 19, 2018

Harris, Murphy Introduce Bill to Help Communities Protect Their Coasts

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As sea-level rise and coastal storms continue to put thousands of homes at risk across the country, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a group of their colleagues today in introducing The Living Shorelines Act – legislation that would create a new grant program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for nature-based shoreline protection projects known as living shorelines.

“Our nation’s coasts must be fortified to ensure both a sustainable environment for generations to come and livable communities that can withstand the effects of climate change,” said Sen. Harris. “Living shorelines are the type of infrastructure advantage we can invest in today that can pay huge dividends down the road.”

“Preserving the shorelines of Long Island Sound is critical to Connecticut’s economy. Coastal resiliency projects like building marshes or restoring wetlands protect our coast and help the environment. The Living Shorelines Act will help towns fund projects to fortify against future storms and rising sea levels, while improving water quality and restoring wildlife habitat,” said Sen. Murphy. “This bill will help rejuvenate big stretches of our coast that communities across the state rely on.”

“I am pleased to see Living Shorelines introduced in the Senate," said Representative Frank Pallone, who introduced the House version of the bill. "This important legislation will help us protect our coastal communities from the threats of climate change including increased storm intensity and frequency, increased flooding, and sea level rise. Made of natural and organic materials such as dunes, wetland plants, and oyster reefs, living shorelines are not only more effective at addressing coastal erosion, they are also less expensive than other hardening techniques such as bulkheads. I look forward to working with Senators Harris and Murphy to make Living Shorelines a reality.”

“Investing in natural infrastructure projects, such as living shorelines, is important to reduce risk from floods and storms. We applaud the introduction of this bill, which will advance the use of nature as a tool to enhance coastal resilience,” said Sarah Murdock, Director of Climate Resilience at The Nature Conservancy. “It’s important to increase support for natural infrastructure projects and highlight the multiple benefits that investing in nature delivers to communities. In addition to flood and storm risk reduction, these projects can enhance water quality, aquatic habitat and recreation opportunities.”

“The Society applauds Senators Harris and Murphy for introducing the Living Shorelines Act in the Senate, which would provide critical funding for coastal communities to work with landscape architects and other design professionals and build a stronger future,” said Nancy C. Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Living shorelines are a type of green infrastructure that protect and stabilize coastal edges by using natural materials such as plants, sand, shell, or rock. Unlike a concrete seawall or other artificial structure, which impedes the growth of plants and animals, living shorelines can grow over time, allowing them to adapt to changing conditions. Using green and natural infrastructure, communities can create a buffer that mitigates the impacts of shoreline flooding by reducing wave energy and decreasing erosion. Green infrastructure is cost-effective and can also provide benefits such as improved local water quality and ecology.

The Living Shorelines Act:

  • Establishes a 1:1 grant program to help states, towns, and nonprofits implement climate resilient living shoreline projects and encourages the use of natural materials in the protection of coastal communities;
  • Directs NOAA to develop criteria to select grantees based on the potential of the project to protect the community, the environmental conditions of the site, the ecological benefits of the project, and the ability of the project to mitigate erosion and flooding, absorb coastal storms, and sustain coastal ecosystems;
  • Projects must be able to demonstrate that they have or will be able to obtain any local, state, or federal permits or necessary authorizations.
  • Prioritizes areas that have received a Stafford Act disaster declaration or areas that have a documented history of coastal inundation, flooding, or erosion; and
  • Authorizes $20 million a year for these grants.

Text of the legislation can be found here.

This legislation is an amended version of the Living Shorelines Act (H.R.4525), introduced by Rep. Pallone. In addition to Harris and Murphy, the legislation was introduced by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). A House version (H.R.4525) was introduced by Rep. Pallone (NJ) and currently has 24 cosponsors.

 

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