House passes bill that would create federal grant program to support ‘living shorelines’

(Courtesy of American Littoral Society)

(Courtesy of American Littoral Society)

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday to help protect coastal communities from sea level rise and stronger storms caused by climate change.

The Living Shoreline Act, authored by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), would create a federal grant program through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assist local and state governments along with non-governmental organizations in constructing living shorelines.

Living shoreline projects use natural materials and systems, including dunes, wetlands, and oyster reefs, to support the natural flood resilience of healthy shoreline ecosystems. They protect against erosion, slow down waves during storms, and provide a habitat for marine life.

In July, one million oysters were deployed at a living shoreline in the Raritan Bay along the northern New Jersey coast.

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“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,” Pallone said in a statement. “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.”

According to the legislation, the $50 million in federal funds that it appropriates would be matched by state and local governments and organizations applying for grants and projects that would be monitored to measure and help determine best practices for future living shoreline projects.

“This legislation will provide additional help so communities can use living shorelines to effectively mitigate future flooding while benefiting local economies,” Pallone said.

A variety of environmental organizations support the legislation, including the American Littoral Society. Tim Dillingham, the organization’s executive director, says the legislation would support developing new natural ways to protect coasts.

“Pallone’s bill will empower communities to find ways to live with the water, restoring natural shorelines and habitats while protecting property and communities,” he said.

A companion bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

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