PALLONE: Living Shorelines Act will help protect coastal towns
The Following Op-Ed appearaed in the Asbury Park Press on November 29th, 2017
Ever since superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey five years ago, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in making our state more resilient and able to withstand the effects of climate change. An important part of this effort has been protecting our coastal communities through flood-resistant infrastructure.
It is possible, and preferable, to develop coastal storm-resistant infrastructure that has no adverse impact on the environment. One such approach is the use of living shorelines, which incorporate natural and organic materials, like wetland plants and oyster reefs that can better protect coastal communities and combat erosion, while also benefiting the local environment. Numerous studies have shown that living shoreline projects can be a better way of addressing erosion than traditional shoreline hardening techniques like bulkheads. Living shorelines also help to improve water quality, which benefits local wildlife and fish populations, and provide opportunities for recreation that traditional hard infrastructure simply does not. Furthermore, these projects are adaptable and self-maintaining, and become even stronger and more resilient over time.
I will soon introduce the Living Shorelines Act, which would create a federal grant program to assist states, localities and non-government organizations in constructing these highly beneficial projects. Federal funds would be matched by state and local governments applying for grants, and projects would be monitored to measure and report on the program and determine best practices for living shorelines projects moving forward.
Perhaps most importantly for New Jersey, the bill would give priority consideration to projects in areas where a federal disaster declaration has been made in the past 10 years, which would include all of New Jersey’s coastal areas
The Living Shorelines Act would provide critical federal support for states and localities that want to construct living shorelines projects. In New Jersey alone, more than 50 living shoreline projects are in the process of being built. In September, Perth Amboy received a state grant to build a living shoreline as part of rehabilitating a former scrap yard into a green space.
The Living Shorelines Act would give local communities another tool in the toolbox, but it would neither require coastal communities to pursue these projects exclusively, nor impose bureaucratic hurdles on communities investing in traditional hard infrastructure.
The Living Shorelines Act will help us protect our coastal communities from the rising threats of climate change including increased storm intensity and frequency, increased flooding, and sea level rise. Utilizing natural infrastructure can help to effectively mitigate future flooding while benefiting local environments and economies. The Living Shorelines Act advances that goal, and I will continue to work to enact this important legislation.
Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., represents New Jersey’s 6th Congressional District.