NEWS AT COASTAL STRATEGIESInterested in learning about ways to fund coastal projects? Please come see us at our next conference - MARK YOUR CALENDARS – Washington, DC, March 11-13th: We’ll be sponsoring the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association’s Coastal Summit, along with the Coastal Celebration (hosted by the Coastal States Organization and ASBPA) that follows immediately after Wednesday’s events (March 13th). We’ll see you there! Following the event, Coastal Strategies will be hosting a webinar on “Investing in Resilience Coasts” where you can learn about the types of financing instruments available on the market today.
Let’s get to it…
Coastal News in Congress
NOAA Administrator Chris Oliver says that seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean “will have a negligible impact.”
First off, some background… What are seismic tests used for? Seismic surveys are underwater explosions of compressed air that are used to detect oil reserves under the seafloor. Differences in reflected seismic waves off the seafloor will indicate different materials below the surface. These tests happen every 10 seconds, for days, even weeks without stopping.
Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) brought strong opposition in the form of a 120-decibel airhorn, which he used as an analogous prop to seismic blasting. According to both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, seismic activity in this area will affect tens of thousands of threatened and endangered species, including several species of wales, dolphins and other marine mammals. The Marine Mammal Protection Act allows small numbers of marine mammals to be hunted, killed, captured or harassed. According to a study by the NMFS, up to 30% of a species’ population may be affected by these tests, so what is ‘small?’
Photo: Center for America Progress
The Surfrider Foundation had its annual Coastal Recreation Hill Day last Friday, where 100 activists from around the nation met in Washington DC with their Members of Congress to build support against offshore drilling and seismic surveys. In coordination with Earth Justice and a coalition of environmental group, Surfrider has filed a suit to challenge the permits issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). To support the campaign against offshore drilling, write your Member of Congress and urge them to support legislation that bans seismic surveys and drilling. If another oil spill occurred anywhere along the US Eastern Seaboard, the effects would be widespread due to currents, and devasting on our economy. The New Jersey Delegation, as well as other delegations along the eastern seaboard are strongly opposing offshore drilling and surveying for oil.
NEW JERSEY + FLORIDA - Have you checked your housing values? Ok, they’ve probably gone up as expected, but would they have been higher without sea level rise, flood risk and climate change? The answer is yes. The First Street Foundation wants you to know what your risk is as a homeowner. A recent report highlights the loss in appreciation in housing values in flood prone areas throughout the nation. This severely affects communities’ tax bases, which can cripple their ability to fund new projects for resilience. If housing prices actually begin to fall, the worst case scenario is something most of us never imagined – a community going out of business.
The House passed a bill to overturn Trump’s National Emergency Declaration, which the Senate is expected to vote on March 15. This will likely be Trump’s first veto as Senate majority leader McConnell has indicated that the Senate will support the House bill.
House T&I Ranking Member Graves (R-MO) supports market-based solutions to protect the environment. During the hearing, Dr. Thomas Lyon, a professor of sustainable science at the University of Michigan made a few key statements in his testimony:
- “Economists have long advocated market-based solutions to environmental problems. This approach minimizes the total cost of achieving a given level of environmental protection, and provides dynamic incentives for innovation in pollution control.”
- “A market-oriented approach would take a modest view of government’s ability to lead the deployment of any particular technology. Mandating technology choices in downstream markets risks creating cycles of hype and disappointment or creating ‘lock in’ to an inferior technology.”
- “U.S. policy towards alternative fuels has vacillated over time as favored technologies rose and fell.”
- “Market-based instruments allow for innovation and flexibility on the part of the private sector. This is especially important in the heavy truck market, which relies primarily on diesel fuel. Cummins and Tesla are producing electric heavy trucks. Toyota is testing heavy trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Natural gas trucks are also being developed. It is too early to tell which of these fuels will be best, so it’s important for policy to allow for flexibility. Mandating a specific technology could lock the industry into an inferior option.”
Without market-based solutions, as a nation we’ll rely on the tedious timeline of working through our federal government’s programs and processes, which have become so risk-averse that they have slowed many projects to a crawl. Meanwhile, threats along our coast are literally knocking down doors. Coastal Strategies is identifying solutions that overcome this immense challenge and secures private sector funding for projects to build resilience in communities.
House T&I Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Chair, Rep. Napolitano (D-CA), made a statement in a hearing emphasizing the importance of our nation’s network of sewers, stormwater and treatment facilities, adding that our nation’s wastewater infrastructure got a grade of a D+ in a 2017 ASCE report. She introduced a bill with Chairman DeFazio of House T&I, along with Reps. Young and Katko to reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. That only services a small portion of the roughly $300 billion over the next 20 years that must be invested to maintain adequate infrastructure. A substantial portion of that funding will need to come from the private sector.
A group of 14 Senators sent a letter to the White House urging President Trump to not move forward with his plan allowing a fossil fuel industry-funded climate change denier and other climate skeptics to conduct an ‘adversarial peer review’ of recent climate science. Forming such a team would create an environment of inaction that needlessly threatens our nation security.
Earmarks?... Have a chance to come back, but there needs to be grassroots support in both chambers. Nita Lowey sent a letter to members of congress indicating that it is indeed a topic of discussion but without bipartisan and bicameral support, there is not hope. It’s time for K street, Members of Congress, and constituents advocate for ways in which we can bring back earmarks appropriately (with transparency!), and you still have time to vote!
Corps of Engineers
Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management Study gets OK from Semonite - After 3 years of study through the Corps’ 3x3x3 process, the Norfolk Coastal Storm Risk Management study has a signed Chiefs Report, meaning it’s ready to go to Congress to ask for construction authorization. The recommended project will cost roughly $1.4 billion and will include storm surge barriers, 8 miles of floodwalls, a one-mile levee, 11 tidal gates and 7 pump stations. Who will build these walls? At a hefty price tag, we can’t see this happening anytime soon through the federal process. What do you think? Can’t we try something more natural?
Trump keeps his word on accelerating infrastructure delivery - The White House Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality provided recommendations to states on how they can stay within the two-year permitting timeline that this Administration wants to see implemented. If a state agency runs into roadblocks and risks hitting their permitting deadline, they can notify senior officials for a ‘timely resolution,’ a memo from the White House says.
The Corps has been advertising it’s Engineering with Nature Atlas. It’s filled with information on geomorphic engineering with natural resources (things like beach nourishment and living shorelines). Take a look.
New Bills in Congress
HJRES 46 - This joint resolution terminates the national emergency related to the U.S.-Mexico border, declared by the President on February 15, 2019.
Here is a curated list of federal coastal grants currently available.
Two articles in this issue:
- Nadja Popovich, a writer for the NYTimes, looks at the increasing number of ocean heat waves and the damage they are doing to marine life.
- The other covers a study that says fish populations are declining as oceans warm, putting a major source of the world’s nutrition at risk.
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