December 18, 2023

Reps. Levin, Mast, Bonamici, and Kiggans Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Coastal Ecosystems

Climate Change and Erosion Threaten Coastal Ecosystems; Bill Would Reauthorize Funding for Estuary Protection

Washington, D.C.- Today, Reps. Mike Levin (CA-49), Brian Mast (FL-21), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), and Jen Kiggans (VA-2) introduced the bipartisan Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act to strengthen federal efforts to protect coastal and estuary habitats like the San Mateo Creek, San Luis Rey River, San Elijo Lagoon, and many others. This bill would reauthorize and revitalize the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP) and require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to designate five new National Estuarine Research Reserves in the next five years.

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.

“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.”

“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 Rep. 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 Congressmen Levin and Mast on this bipartisan bill to preserve our wetlands!”

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, which include the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve, 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 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.”

“We applaud Rep. Levin for re-introducing the Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act, a key bill to help protect our priceless coastal estuaries,” said Natalie Shapiro, Executive Director of the Buena Vista Audubon Society.  “As climate change and development continues to degrade the functioning of these coastal treasures, it is even more imminent to engage in their protection and restoration. In addition, as a non-profit actively restoring coastal wetlands in North County San Diego, we experience first-hand the need for funding this critical work and are thrilled that the Act includes expanding the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program to include providing grants to non-profit organizations.”

"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."

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.