June 04, 2019

Harris, Murphy Reintroduce Legislation to Help Communities Protect Their Coasts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) on Tuesday reintroduced the Living Shorelines Act, legislation that would create a new grant program for nature-based shoreline protection projects known as living shorelines. As sea-level rise and coastal storms continue to threaten thousands of coastal communities and economies, investing in living shorelines can help reduce risk from floods and storms and increase the resiliency of our coasts.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. In addition to Harris and Murphy, the Living Shorelines Act is co-sponsored by Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Menendez (D-NJ), Booker (D-NJ), Wyden (D-OR), and Merkley (D-OR).

“Our country is facing a climate crisis, and while we work to secure our environment for future generations we must also take steps to mitigate against sea level rise and prepare for the extreme weather that has become increasingly common,” said Senator Harris. “We need to make smart investments in our coastal communities, and creating living shorelines is a proven method of protecting our precious coasts.”

“Connecticut’s economy depends on a vibrant, healthy Long Island Sound, and we have to be smart if we’re going to manage the effects of climate change on our coast. I’m proud to join Senator Harris and Congressman Pallone in reintroducing the Living Shorelines Act. Our legislation will send money to towns along the Sound that are working on environmentally friendly projects to fortify against future storms and rising sea levels,” said Senator Murphy.

“The Living Shorelines Act will help us protect our coastal communities from the effects of climate change, including more flooding from sea level rise and stronger hurricanes, by harnessing proven natural infrastructure solutions. Since Superstorm Sandy, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to make my home state of New Jersey more resilient against the effects of climate change. This legislation will provide additional help so communities can use living shorelines to effectively mitigate future flooding while benefiting local economies,” said Congressman Pallone. “Strengthening living shorelines will also improve the local environment by supporting water quality and habitats for local wildlife and fish as well as provide enhanced opportunities for recreation. I look forward to working with Senators Harris and Murphy in the Senate to advance this legislation.”

 

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 will:

  • Establish a grant program to help states, towns, and NGOs implement climate resilient living shoreline projects and encourage the use of natural materials in the protection of coastal communities;
  • Direct NOAA to develop criteria to select grantees based on the potential of the project to protect the community, and the ecological benefits of the project, among other things; 
  • Prioritize areas that have received a Stafford Act disaster declaration or areas that have a documented history of coastal inundation or erosion; and
  • Authorize $50 million a year for these grants.

 Supporters of the Living Shorelines Act include The Nature Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation and the American Society of Landscape Architects.

 “Natural infrastructure like coastal wetlands, barrier beaches, shellfish beds and living shorelines reduce flood risk and enhance the resilience of our shoreline communities. It is important that we increase efforts to protect and enhance our coastal habitat systems as sea levels rise and coastal storms intensify. Natural infrastructure has additional benefits, including boosting water quality and enhancing habitat for fish and other wildlife. This bill will help deliver those benefits, making the investments in natural infrastructure our coasts and their communities need,” said Sarah Murdock, Director of U.S. Climate Resilience Policy at The Nature Conservancy. 

“Living shorelines are an important and adaptable tool to help coastal communities become more resilient while improving habitat for wildlife,” said Jessie Ritter, director of water resources and coastal policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “In the face of severe storms and flooding, the Living Shorelines Act of 2019 will enable more communities to use nature-based solutions to help protect their coastlines. Importantly, the Living Shorelines Act of 2019 will further demonstrate and measure how living shorelines projects protect communities— ultimately helping us improve their design and effectiveness. Thank you to Senators Harris and Murphy for their leadership on this critical issue for wildlife and coastal communities alike.”

"Millions of Americans live in coastal communities under constant threat of flooding and severe storms – threats made worse by rising seas and warming temperatures. Landscape architects help communities incorporate natural materials and nature-based designs and plans to mitigate the effects of severe climate-related events. This bill would help those projects come to fruition." said Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “ASLA commends Senator Harris and Senator Murphy on taking the bold step to introduce this legislation, along with added provisions to help low- and middle-income communities access these essential resources.”

For full bill text, click here.