Healthy Oceans Blog

Pallone’s Bill to Help Coastal Communities Combat Effects of Climate Change Passes House

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) applauded House passage of legislation he authored to help protect coastal communities from sea level rise and stronger storms caused by climate change. The Living Shorelines Act would create a federal grant program through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assist states, localities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in constructing living shorelines. In August, Pallone held an event in Keyport where living shorelines already are strengthening the coastline in New Jersey.

Living shoreline projects use natural materials and systems, including dunes, wetlands, and oyster reefs, to support the natural flood resilience of healthy shoreline ecosystems.

Natural infrastructure is cost-effective and adaptable to changing environmental conditions. It also enhances ecosystem functions which can improve water quality and wildlife habitat protection. Certain types of living shorelines can also support carbon mitigation. The Living Shorelines Act passed as part of a package of bills included in H.R. 729, the Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act.

“The Living Shorelines Act will help us protect our coastal communities from the effects of climate change, including more flooding from sea level rise and stronger hurricanes, by harnessing proven natural infrastructure solutions. The passage of this legislation by the U.S. House sends a clear message to Americans that Congress is serious about protecting coastal communities from the effects of the climate crisis,” Congressman Pallone said. “Since Superstorm Sandy, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to make my home state of New Jersey more resilient against the effects of climate change. This legislation will provide additional help so communities can use living shorelines to effectively mitigate future flooding while benefiting local economies. Strengthening living shorelines will also improve the local environment by supporting water quality and habitats for local wildlife and fish as well as provide enhanced opportunities for recreation.”

The legislation provides $50 million in federal funds that would be matched by state and local governments and NGOs applying for grants and projects. They would be monitored to measure and help determine best practices for future living shoreline projects. The bill would give priority consideration to projects in areas where a federal disaster has been declared in the past 10 years or that have a history of flooding, which includes New Jersey’s coastal towns. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the companion bill in the Senate.

“The United States is facing a climate crisis,” said Senator Harris. “As severe storms and flooding become more common – made worse by rising sea levels and increasing temperatures – we must take bold action to protect our coastal communities. And as we take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we must also prepare communities for the climate change impacts we are already facing. That is why I am grateful for Congressman Pallone’s partnership on this issue and I applaud the House of Representatives for prioritizing the creation of living shorelines in order to protect our coasts. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation immediately.”

“As a sponsor of the Senate version of this bill, I want to applaud my friends in the House of Representatives, led by Congressman Pallone, for passing this important legislation. The Living Shorelines Act helps protect coastal communities along Long Island Sound, by sending money to towns that are working on environmentally friendly projects to fortify against future storms and rising sea levels. Senator Harris and I will work hard with our colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line,” said Senator Murphy.

The legislation has the support of the National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, American Littoral Society, Restore America’s Estuaries, American Society for Landscape Architects, the Jersey Shore Partnership, Earthjustice, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Blue Frontier Campaign, and the Middlebury Institute’s Center for the Blue Economy.

“We are living in a world of a changing climate. Mr. Pallone’s Living Shorelines legislation will provide support for developing new approaches to protecting our coast that are based in nature,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director of the Littoral Society. “Pallone’s bill will empower communities to find ways to live with the water, restoring natural shorelines and habitats while protecting property and communities. We applaud Mr. Pallone for his continued leadership in protecting our coast and ocean, and appreciate the continual development of creative, workable and sound programs that come from his office.”

“Coastal managers have long known that beaches and dunes reduce the risk of flood and storm damage to oceanfront coastal communities while providing ecological habitat and recreation benefits, and the U.S. has wisely invested in maintaining and restoring this critical natural infrastructure. Living shorelines provide these exact same benefits to bayside and estuarine coastal communities but without the same level of support from the federal government. The Living Shorelines Act will help ensure ALL coastal communities can use natural infrastructure to reduced risk from coastal hazards while maintaining wildlife habitat and offering recreation values,” said Derek Brockbank, Executive Director of American Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

“Living shorelines are a proven way to use natural systems to protect shorelines, reduce flooding of both public and private properties, and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife", said Jeff Benoit, President of Restore America's Estuaries. “The Living Shorelines bill provides a real opportunity to advance the use of this technique to create healthy and productive estuaries.”

“Living shorelines are an important and adaptable tool to help coastal communities become more resilient while improving habitat for wildlife,” said Jessie Ritter, Director of Water Resources and Coastal Policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “In the face of severe storms and flooding, the Living Shorelines Act of 2019 will enable more communities to use nature-based solutions to help protect their coastlines. Importantly, the Living Shorelines Act of 2019 will further demonstrate and measure how living shorelines projects protect communities— ultimately helping us improve their design and effectiveness. Thank you to Senators Harris and Murphy and to Congressman Pallone for their leadership on this critical issue for wildlife and coastal communities alike.”

“The Jersey Shore Partnership applauds the passage of Congressman Pallone’s Living Shorelines Act. This innovative program advances the opportunities to protect our coastal infrastructure by incentivizing a natural complement to ‘hard’ shoreline stabilization methods like stone sills or bulkheads and recognizes the value of living shore lines’ numerous benefits. We applaud and promote this legislation as an important step in advancing shoreline stabilization projects that enhance natural materials that buffer shoreline erosion from coastal storms, support natural habitats, and essential ecosystem functions,” said Margot Walsh, Executive Director, The Jersey Shore Partnership.

This press release originally appeared on Congressman Frank Pallone's website and can be viewed here.