American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is pleased to see the Department of Interior will be re-considering a section Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) that has made it more expensive for many coastal communities to improve their resilience. Allowing communities with federally authorized coastal shore protection projects, including federal beach restoration and ecological restoration, to access sand from inlets and near-shore sediment deposits, will save the federal taxpayer money, help reduce flood risk, and restore habitat – the three primary purposes of CBRA.
A 1994 Fish & Wildlife Service interpretation of Section 3505(a)(6)(g) of CBRA had said that coastal shore protection projects outside of CBRA-units could not use federal funds to access sediment from CBRA protected areas. This meant federal projects adjacent to inlets in CBRA-units cost federal taxpayers more because these projects have to get sand from far offshore. Given the increased cost to local community and the federal taxpayer, these projects could also be left unbuilt, which would put the community at increased risk of flood and coastal storm damage, while also reducing beach and dune habitat available to nesting shorebirds, sea turtles and other wildlife.
This guidance expanded the scope of CBRA beyond the intent of Congress – limiting development within CBRA-units – to apply it to previously developed coastlines outside of the Coastal Barrier Resources System. Furthermore, this interpretation was based on the understanding of dredging and beach nourishment impacts to wildlife from the 1980s that has since evolved to show increasing importance and ecological productivity of restored beach habitat, and today’s dredging and beach restoration efforts include numerous science-based conservation measures and best management practices that provide ecological benefits. In short, the implementation guidance was flawed from the beginning, but has only proven to be more problematic in recent years.
To be clear, changes to this guidance will not impact any environmental regulation or allow for dredging activity in any location where it not currently allowed. All environmental laws, protections and procedures must still be followed and areas that were off-limits to dredging will still be off-limits. This includes restrictions on beach sand-mining, dredging and restoration in endangered species critical habitat, essential fish habitat and more. Changes to this guidance simply allow federal funds to be used in the most efficient way possible to help communities that have demonstrated there is federal interest in reducing flood risk and restoring coastline.
Section 3505(a)(6)(g) of CBRA allows for federal expenditures for “nonstructural projects for shoreline stabilization that are designed to mimic, enhance, or restore a natural stabilization system.”
ASBPA looks forward to an interpretation of this section that allows for resilient natural infrastructure, such as beaches and dunes, to be eligible for federal expenditures under CBRA, while adhering more closely to the congressional intent of reducing development within CBRA units, but not impacting previously developed areas. Allowing for sand from CBRA-units to be used for non-structural flood risk reduction project in previously developed areas is entirely consistent with the three purposes of CBRA: reducing risk and loss of life, improving or protecting wildlife habitat, and saving the federal taxpayer money.
See Secretary Bernhardt’s Letter to Congress (PDF 1.7 mb)
For more information, contact:
Derek Brockbank, Derek.Brockbank@asbpa.org, 202-827-4246