Pallone, Shaw Criticize Bush Administration Policy Change that Threatens Shore Protection Projects
Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and E. Clay Shaw (R-FL), co-chairmen of the House Coastal Caucus, today criticized the Bush Administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for proposed policy changes that will threaten future shore protection projects and shift $2 billion in project costs to state and local governments.
The new OMB formulas, reflected in the funding levels in the President's Fiscal Year (FY) 05 budget, will end long-term federal participation in shore protection projects. Under the new rules, the federal government would fund only a portion of the initial construction of shore protection projects, leaving state and local governments to bear the cost of any necessary long-term renourishment or periodic upkeep.
"For nearly a decade, Congress has firmly rejected OMBs initiatives to curtail the role of the federal government in restoring critically eroded public beaches," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to OMB Director Joshua B. Bolten. "Our coastal communities, and the millions of American and foreign visitors who enjoy our public beaches each year, depend on the federal governments commitment to beach nourishment."
The proposed change in the Presidents budget would shift nearly $2 billion of beach project costs from the federal government to state and local governments. In the letter, the lawmakers state their concern that OMB does not consider the affect shifting this cost would have on already cash-strapped states.
"Decreased funding will have far-reaching effects that will impact fiscally-strapped state and local governments," the members wrote. "Eroding public beaches mean a loss of tax revenues at the local, state and national level. It will also mean a loss of public recreation and environmental habitat.
"Americas beaches are irreplaceable environmental and economic assets, serving as an unparalleled source of storm protection and a backbone of the economy for coastal communities around the country," the members continued. "The timely maintenance and restoration of these
beaches is critical to preserve their value and viability and provide a boost to both the environment and the economy of the nation."
Beaches are the number one tourist destination in the United States, with coastal states earning 85 percent of all U.S. tourism revenues. Beach areas attract significant economic development and investment, as well as substantial international tourism revenue.
Pallone and Shaw say approximately 180 million people vacation and recreate along U.S. coasts every year. America's beaches are frequented by more people than are our national parks, but unlike national parks, the federal government only pays part of the maintenance costs. Pallone also pointed to a recent study by Jersey Shore Partnership, Inc. that tourists to New Jersey's beaches spend as much as $16 billion per year alone in the four coastal counties, and generate an additional $1.9 billion in state taxes. This makes tourism New Jersey's second largest business sector supporting thousands of jobs annually.