What can Congress do to protect our country’s invaluable coastal resources? First and foremost, fund coastal infrastructure.
The American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is recommending at least $5 billion over ten years to rebuild and restore our nation’s beach, dunes, wetlands and other coastal flood risk reduction infrastructure. This should include building already authorized, but unfunded, coastal projects around the country. These projects all have a positive benefit-cost ratio (meaning they have been determined to have a positive return on investment), but they have to compete for annual appropriations and federal new-start limitations.
This $5 billion investment should also send funding directly to states that have coastal projects they would like to see implemented but don’t have the funding to start. While federal involvement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is critical to every water project, allowing states the opportunity to lead on some projects has shown in some places to be more cost-effective and to get projects built quicker.
We’re seeing this in Louisiana on a number of their coastal restoration projects where they are using money from the RESTORE Act, Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) funding following the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
Innovative financing that allows for public-private partnerships may prove helpful on some smaller-scale projects. For example, we have begun to see environmental mitigation banking generate funds for important coastal projects. Finance schemes that allow companies or communities to reduce their flood insurance by building dunes have created helpful incentives for coastal infrastructure.
However, large-scale projects that will drive job creation and protect communities need federal investment. Industry will not build a beach simply for tax credits, they need to be paid – and, since the public and our national economy benefit from sound and substantial coastal infrastructure, the federal government must provide that funding. Financing options and incentivizing private investment is helpful for smaller localized projects, but to really create jobs and make a sound investment the federal government needs to fund coastal projects.
Furthermore, federal investment in water and coastal infrastructure will ensure projects are coordinated regionally and provide benefits across coastal communities. ASBPA does not want to see “random acts of restoration” which often prove ineffective and economically inefficient. The regional approach to coastal management – in funding as well as in planning – ensures projects are effective and the benefits are distributed evenly around the coast.
Finally, Congress has an important role to play in oversight of our federal agencies with water and coastal infrastructure in their jurisdictions. One of the most important things ASBPA advocates for is Regional Sediment Management (RSM) and Beneficial Use of Dredged Material (BUDM). The placement of dredged sand and other sediment on beaches, dunes, and coastal wetlands can serve multiple benefits, including flood and storm risk reduction, ecological restoration, and adaptation to sea level rise. As sediment sources become increasingly scarce, the USACE and other agencies must manage sediment as the valuable and limited resource it is.
Congress recently authorized a “South Atlantic Coastal Study,” which directs the Corps to conduct a study of coastal areas located within the geographic boundaries of the South Atlantic Division to identify the risks and vulnerabilities of those areas to increased hurricane and storm damage as a result of sea level rise. This study will also include a focus on sediment resources and coastal erosion issues.
Like the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study authorized after Hurricane Sandy, this study will ensure coastal projects are coordinated regionally and are achieving multiple benefits, and help the Corps and other agencies find new and better ways to guide the management and preservation of America’s coasts.
Water and coastal infrastructure, such as beaches, dunes, wetlands and the like, may not fit the traditional vision of traditional infrastructure such as steel and concrete stretching as high or as far as they eye can see. But they are just as critical to our nation’s economy and well-being, and they provide just as many, if not more, jobs and other economic benefits.
Natural water and coastal infrastructure provide jobs via construction and restoration; via recreation (including hunting and fishing) and tourism; via support for the coastal community’s local economy; and via protection of property and local business from flood and storm damage. Investing in coastal infrastructure is also a wise investment, since if we don’t invest now we’ll pay more in recovery from damages later.
ASBPA urges Congress to invest $5 billion over 10 years in coastal infrastructure. A sound and long-term investment in coastal infrastructure will help put Americans back to work, create a strong economic return on investment and save money in the long run.
Founded in 1926, the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. From its formation, ASBPA has worked with Congress to pass significant legislation to define and refine a strong and necessary role for the federal government in the management and preservation or our nation’s shorelines.
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ABOUT ASBPA: Founded in 1926, the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org, Facebook or www.twitter.com/asbpa. For information, to change your email address or to unsubscribe from this list, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. A complete collection of Beach News Service articles is available for media access online at. https://asbpa.org/publications/american-beach-news-service/