Kiggans, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Coastal Ecosystems

Dec 23, 2023
Environment
Press

WASHINGTON, DC: Today, Congresswoman Jen Kiggans announced that she has joined Representatives Mike Levin (CA-49), Brian Mast (FL-21), and Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) to introduce the bipartisan Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act. This legislation would strengthen federal efforts to protect coastal and estuary habitats by reauthorizing and revitalizing the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) and requiring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to designate five new National Estuarine Research Reserves in the next five years.

“Coastal Virginia is blessed to be home to a large network of estuaries and other wetlands that act as critical barriers against hurricanes, tropical storms, and other natural disasters,” said Congresswoman Kiggans. “Through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, we can provide state and local governments the resources they need ensure these lands in southeast Virginia and around the country are protected. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill to preserve our wetlands and coastal communities!”

“Our cherished lagoons and estuaries are vitally important to the stability of our environment and economy. It’s crucial that we help our coastal communities preserve these natural resources and better prepare for the impacts of climate change,” said Rep. Levin. “I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act to reauthorize a successful program that will allow us to better meet today’s environmental needs and safeguard coastal environments for future generations.”

“Healthy estuaries are critical to the Pacific NW’s economy and way of life,” said Rep. Bonamici. “I’m glad to partner with my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to protect these important waterways and sustain our coastal communities now and into the future.”

The Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act is endorsed by the Coastal States Organization, National Estuarine Research Reserve Association, Oceana, National Audubon Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, American Sportfishing Association, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and Restore America’s Estuaries.

“The Coastal Zone Management Act is an essential law in balancing the multiple uses of America’s coasts and ensuring every state can manage its own coastline. The Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act takes an important step in updating this seminal law to better allow for conservation of coastal land, improve estuarine research and provide more public access opportunities in an era of massive coastal change due to sea level rise, intensifying storms, and increased offshore energy production,” said Derek Brockbank, Executive Director of Coastal States Organization.

“As the challenges facing the coasts intensify, we need a Coastal Zone Management Act that reflects the issues of today—one that does more to help communities meet the impacts of a changing climate,” says Rebecca Roth, Director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA). “We applaud Representatives Levin, Mast, Bonamici, and Kiggans for proposing this bipartisan re-authorization of a unique and visionary legislation that will benefit the economy and our well-being, generations to come.”

“Local nonprofits play a crucial role in addressing environmental issues that affect their communities. We are part of the local community and positioned to provide critical services and support at a grassroots level,” said Nature Collective’s Executive Director and Principal Scientist Doug Gibson. “Let’s all work collectively to set aside estuarine lands and waters so everyone can connect with, experience, and protect nature.”

BACKGROUND

Healthy estuaries play a critical role in ensuring environmental and economic stability in coastal communities. Passed in 1972, the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) established the CELCP to provide grants to state and local governments to protect coastal and estuarine areas that have conservation, recreation, ecological, historical, or aesthetic value. However, the program’s authorization expired in fiscal year 2013 and other federal funding mechanisms ran out in 2017.

The Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act would bring necessary funding to coastal communities by reauthorizing and revitalizing CELCP. The bill would fund the program at $60 million per year and expand the program to provide funding to nongovernmental organizations. The bill would prioritize funding for projects that benefit communities without adequate coastal hazards resources, areas threatened by climate change, and areas that might help mitigate the effects of climate change through blue carbon storage.

The Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act would also direct the Secretary of Commerce to designate at least five new National Estuarine Research Reserves. These reserves specialize in research and data monitoring to support conservation and management efforts locally and around the country. Reserve employees train local and state officials on the data they find to inform local decision making. The reserves also educate thousands of children and adults through hands-on laboratory and field-based trips.

The full text of the Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act can be found here.

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