Healthy coasts are a wise investment. Coastlines protect communities from storms and sea level rise, provide habitat and ecological benefits, support coastal economies, provide recreation to local residents and draw tourists from around the world. This means healthy coastlines bring multiple returns on the investment made by the federal government, state and local project sponsors and private investors.
So what can Congress do to sensibly invest in healthy coastlines?
1) Fund key coastal programs: Money still makes the world go around and, even in the post-earmarks era, let’s never forget that only Congress can appropriate federal funds. So Members should fund the following:
2) Pursue long-term coastal funding: By authorizing an array of federal agencies to pursue public-private partnerships with states, local government and the private sector, Congress could lead the way toward establishing a long-term funding base to address coastal management issues – moving this whole effort from being segmented or crisis-driven to being coordinated and anticipatory.
This also means protecting existing sources of coastal funding from being diverted into non-coastal uses as well as being open to developing new sources of funding appropriate to the needs and issues at hand.
3) Pass a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) this year, and get this authorization back on a two-year cycle that’s predictable and professional. There are a number of specific efforts that should be included in the next WRDA – establishing a federal coastal priorities list, supporting interagency undertaking along the coast, supporting RSM efforts now under way and encouraging a more systematic approach to coastal risk reduction. But returning to a more consistent WRDA cycle would also allow communities and agencies to plan their efforts (and the funding those efforts need) with more consistency… which saves time, dollars and effort, and only makes sense.
4) Fund more Comprehensive Coastal Studies. The North Atlantic study done in the wake of Superstorm Sandy developed a cohesive strategy for integrating shore protection with estuary and environmental restoration – again, a prudent use of resources in a way that maximizes benefits to the coast. Undertaking similar studies for other U.S. coasts would allow this integrative effort to expand, either in response to or (preferably) in anticipation of storms, as well as allow the post-Sandy work to continue and develop.
5) Support the coast: Members of Congress should become members of the Coastal Communities Caucus and join a bipartisan group of Representatives working to speak in defense of America’s coasts. Common interests help build common ground, and if coastal concerns can help bring people in Washington together, that’s good for everyone.
NOTE: These recommendations are drawn from the 2016 Legislative and Federal Agency Agenda developed by the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA), a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 1926 that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America.