Padilla Announces Bill to Help Coastal Communities Combat Effects of Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif) joined Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), along with Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), in announcing legislation to help protect coastal communities from sea level rise and stronger storms caused by climate change. The Living Shorelines Act of 2021 would create two new federal grant programs through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: one program will assist states, localities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in constructing living shorelines, and the second program will provide federal research grants to study living shoreline development and effectiveness to better protect coastal communities and ecosystems from climate change.

In California, the Coastal Conservancy is working with 17 regional partners to implement the San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines Project to protect Bay Area shorelines by using native eelgrass and oyster beds to create reefs that decrease wave energy, thereby reducing flooding and erosion of shorelines.

Living shoreline infrastructure projects use natural materials and systems, including dunes, wetlands, and oyster reefs to support natural flood resilience. Natural infrastructure is cost-effective and adaptable to changing environmental conditions. It also enhances ecosystem functions to improve water quality and wildlife habitat protection. Certain types of living shorelines can also support carbon mitigation. The legislation provides $50 million in federal funds for living shoreline construction projects and $5 million for research grants.

“We are facing a climate crisis and the impacts are being felt in California and across the country,” said Senator Padilla. “Living shoreline infrastructure is already helping states like California utilize wetlands and other nature-based features to buffer communities from sea level rise and extreme weather. The Living Shorelines Act makes critical investments in natural infrastructure projects to better protect communities while restoring habitat and stimulating local economic development, taking us one step closer to climate change resiliency.”

“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. 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 build a body of research and provide additional help so communities can use living shorelines to effectively mitigate future flooding while benefiting local economies,” said Congressman Pallone. “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. I look forward to working with Senators Murphy, Blumenthal, and Padilla in the Senate to advance this legislation.”

“With sea levels rising and storms getting more dangerous, Connecticut’s vibrant shoreline is at risk. That’s why I am proud to join Congressman Pallone in reintroducing the Living Shorelines Act,” said Senator Murphy. “Our legislation helps coastal communities by sending federal money to towns to invest in green infrastructure projects that have the dual benefits of protecting shorelines and restoring natural habitats.”

“This bill is an investment in the future of Connecticut’s coastal communities which sit on the front lines of the climate crisis. The cataclysmic damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy showed what the dangerous combination of sea level rise and stronger storms can result in and revealed the urgent need for more research and natural infrastructure grants,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Dedicating funding for the construction of living shoreline projects will help states like Connecticut protect local economies and wildlife habitats by improving water quality, carbon mitigation, and resiliency against future floods and storms.”    

“A healthy coast full of marine life relies on living shorelines. Hardening the coastline through bulkheads and concrete walls sacrifices essential habitats needed for a healthy coastal ecosystem. Living shorelines are an increasingly available alternative shore protection practice which can protect property from erosion, reduce homeowner costs and protect and restore the shoreline at the same time,” said Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society. “This bill will provide essential support for research to advance living shoreline approaches, and the trust fund will support real projects to protect property and the environment and showcase the effectiveness of living shorelines. We applaud Congressman Pallone and Senators Murphy, Padilla, and Blumenthal for their vision and leadership on this critical coastal conservation issue.”

“Restore America’s Estuaries is pleased to support the Living Shorelines Act, which provides critical funds to implement climate-resilient living shoreline projects and to encourage innovation in the use of natural materials to protect coastal communities, habitats, and natural system functions,” said Daniel Hayden, President of Restore America’s Estuaries. “Every dollar invested in coastal resilience avoids $6 in recovery costs, so the Act is a cost-effective approach that also enhances the functioning of our coastal ecosystems.”

“Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our coastal communities. Landscape architects have long used green infrastructure, including living shorelines, to protect these vulnerable communities in a resilient and sustainable way. We are excited to see the Living Shorelines Act reintroduced this Congress and look forward to working with our partners in Congress towards passage of this critical bill,” said Torey Carter-Conneen, CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). “We are thankful for the continued leadership on this issue of Chairman Pallone and Senators Murphy and Blumenthal. We are also pleased to see Senator Padilla follow in Vice President Harris’s footsteps in sponsoring this bill.”

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