Happy New Year!
We’re still adding some icing to our cake, www.waterlog.net, but there is a tremendous amount of useful information on the Corps of Engineers, climate change, Congress and the coasts. In addition, in 2019 we will be launching our newest venture, Coastal Strategies, LLC, a firm entirely dedicated to bolstering coastal resilience through coordination of local governments and regional coalitions with State agencies, Federal agencies and the private sector. One of our primary focuses is improving shoreline stabilization while reducing costs associated with beach nourishment and dredging, which we will be sharing during our presentation at the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation’s conference on Beach Preservation Technology February 6-8th. We hope to see you there!
NFIP Expiration (139 days)
Government Shutdown (-12 days)
New Congress (1 day)
Congressional Recap 2018
It’s 2019, and since it’s an odd number, that means this is a new Congress, the 116th of our nation’s history. Before we look ahead, let’s look back at the last Congress and the members who spoke out the most for our coasts. There may be many ways to measure that: press releases and social media posts, for example. But we have a unique way of looking at it, and it’s unique because no one else does it.
We track bills introduced in both the House and Senate that directly affect coastal communities. During 2017-2018, there were 292 measures introduced, with a few being duplicates of other proposals. Less than one-tenth (20 to be exact), became law. That’s not an unusual level of failure when you consider that it’s easy to introduce legislation but extremely hard to get a bill passed. Of the total, a whopping 39 percent were focused on disasters. Of these 131 bills, six became law, including the Weather Research and Forecast Innovation Act (HR 353) and the FEMA Accountability, Modernization and Transparency Act (HR 1679). Another nine bills passed either the House or the Senate, but not both.
The sponsors of these bills, like most coastal measures, reflect the bipartisan support of coastal issues that still exists in Congress. Seven of the 115 bills introduced on the National Flood Insurance Program became law, while the sea level rise & climate change category batted 0 for 22. We also have a coastal-miscellaneous category with 62 bills, but only one of them, the WRDA bill, became law.
Finally, there are a handful of members of Congress who demonstrated the most interest in the coast by their introduction of four or more of the 292 bills we track. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida (whose re-election bid failed) led the list with no less than a dozen (12) of those measures followed in alphabetical order by Rep. Garret Graves (4) and Sen. John Kennedy (5) – both of Louisiana, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (4), Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington (4), Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York (7), retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey (9), Se. Roger Wicker of Mississippi (7), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island (4), and Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey who was defeated in his re-election bid. While Bill Nelson was 2018’s Coastal Champion, who will be the next contenders in the heavyweight class when hurricane season starts in May? We hope they’ve begun their training.
Tomorrow – The new Congress will enter with a democratic majority in the House, upsetting the GOP’s reign over the House, Senate and White House. This new dynamic is expected to have a strong voice in climate awareness and will hopefully produce actual climate-centric legislation that democratic lawmakers have teased about for months now. We also hope that many of the proposed roll[set]backs in environmental protections will be reversed, allowing greater protection for our natural resources and ‘ecosystem services’ that account for an estimated 125 trillion dollars in the global economy (US GDP is roughly 20 trillion).
The NFIP has been extended by S 3628 for another 139 days until May 31, 2019. No reforms… and the Federal Government remains closed on it’s 12th day of a shutdown. The Corps of Engineers remains funded. Meanwhile our national parks are the Wild Wild West.
Remember when we warned that livestock farmers in North Carolina were at risk of having their cesspools overflow during Florence? It happened, and it was worse than we thought - Read on for yourself. Several million livestock animals also perished, further contaminating polluted waters, due to the inability of farmers to appropriately transport their livestock to higher ground. In addition to livestock waste entering the floodwaters, there was also spillage of coal ash and human waste that resulted from the flood.
Florida Dredging - Miami Waterkeeper, a local environmental watchdog, filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to order the release of a study on the effects of dredging on the corals within the Port of Miami. It has been 2 years since the study began and no records have been released. The Jacksonville District has agreed to hold off the Port Everglades project until it could reassess the environmental impact.
Beneficial Use Pilots: That extra money ($10M) in the Corps Work Plan for Beneficial Use of Dredged Material was finally divvied up among 10 pilot projects. See the winners here.
Action on Bills in Congress
The following three bills have been sent to committee but with no bill text:
HR 7322 – A bill to amend the Stafford Act and Emergency Assistance Act to ensure that unmet needs after a disaster are met.
HR 7380 – To provide for an online repository for certain reporting requirements for recipients of Federal disaster assistance, and for other purposes.
S 3789 – A bill to provide for certain water resources development activities of the Corps of Engineers.
HR 4177 – PREPARE ACT - To enhance the Federal Government’s planning and preparation for extreme weather and the Federal Government’s dissemination of best practices to respond to extreme weather, thereby increasing resilience, improving regional coordination, and mitigating the financial risk to the Federal Government from such extreme weather, and for other purposes. The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act of 2017 authorizes the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to provide disaster assistance to States and units of general government under a community development block grant disaster recovery program, and for other purposes. No committee report yet. The Disaster Reform Act of 2018 is still in committee with no report. This covers things like NFIP, wildfires, evacuation routes, pre-disaster mitigation, etc.