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Pallone Announces Bill to Help Coastal Communities Combat Effects of Climate Change

June 3, 2019
Press Release
Senators Kamala Harris, Chris Murphy Lead Senate Companion

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) announced legislation to help protect coastal communities from sea level rise and stronger storms caused by climate change. The Living Shorelines Act would create a federal grant program through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assist states, localities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in constructing living shorelines.

Living shoreline projects use natural materials and systems, including dunes, wetlands, and oyster reefs, to support the natural flood resilience of healthy shoreline ecosystems. Natural infrastructure is cost-effective and adaptable to changing environmental conditions. It also enhances ecosystem functions which can improve water quality and wildlife habitat protection. Certain types of living shorelines can also support carbon mitigation.

“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,” Congressman Pallone said. “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.”

The legislation provides $50 million in federal funds that would be matched by state and local governments and NGOs applying for grants and projects. They would be monitored to measure and help determine best practices for future living shoreline projects. The bill would give priority consideration to projects in areas where a federal disaster has been declared in the past 10 years or that have a history of flooding, which includes New Jersey’s coastal towns. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) will introduce the companion bill in the Senate.

“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 Kamala D. Harris (D-CA). “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 Chris Murphy (D-CT).

“We are living in a world of a changing climate. Mr. Pallone’s Living Shorelines legislation will provide support for developing new approaches to protecting our coast that are based in nature,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the Littoral Society. “Pallone’s bill will empower communities to find ways to live with the water, restoring natural shorelines and habitats while protecting property and communities. We applaud Mr. Pallone for his continued leadership in protecting our coast and ocean, and appreciate the continual development of creative, workable and sound programs that come from his office.”

“Coastal managers have long known that beaches and dunes reduce the risk of flood and storm damage to oceanfront coastal communities while providing ecological habitat and recreation benefits, and the U.S. has wisely invested in maintaining and restoring this critical natural infrastructure. Living shorelines provide these exact same benefits to bayside and estuarine coastal communities but without the same level of support from the federal government. The Living Shorelines Act will help ensure ALL coastal communities can use natural infrastructure to reduced risk from coastal hazards while maintaining wildlife habitat and offering recreation values,” said Derek Brockbank, Executive Director of American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

“Living shorelines are a proven way to use natural systems to protect shorelines, reduce flooding of both public and private properties, and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife", said Jeff Benoit, President of Restore America's Estuaries. “The Living Shorelines bill provides a real opportunity to advance the use of this technique to create healthy and productive estuaries.”

“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 and to Congressman Pallone for their leadership on this critical issue for wildlife and coastal communities alike.”

“The Jersey Shore Partnership applauds Congressman Pallone’s introduction of the Living Shorelines Act. This innovative program advances the opportunities to protect our coastal infrastructure by incentivizing a natural complement to ‘hard’ shoreline stabilization methods like stone sills or bulkheads and recognizes the value of living shore lines’ numerous benefits. We applaud and promote this legislation as an important step in advancing shoreline stabilization projects that enhance natural materials that buffer shoreline erosion from coastal storms, support natural habitats, and essential ecosystem functions,” said Margot Walsh, Executive Director, The Jersey Shore Partnership.

“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.

Bill text is available here.