NJ congressman’s bill would use coastal resources to combat climate effects
Building on a previous version that passed the House of Representatives but not the U.S. Senate, legislation newly introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-NJ, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT, aims to use certain natural resources to support coastal flood resilience in the face of climate change.
The Living Shorelines Act of 2021 would focus on dunes, wetlands, and oyster reefs, which Pallone said is a change from prior strategies that emphasized jetties, groins, and beach replenishment, though he added both approaches can work concurrently.
"Keyport is on the bay, so ocean currents are not as strong, but these grants can be used all over," Pallone said, referring to the Jersey Shore town in which his 2019 legislation was unveiled, and the two federal grants proposed in the bill. "We have this as a grant program to give to towns so they can utilize these natural protections, and also another grant program for research into them, and how effective and cost-effective they are."
The grants are worth a combined $55 million.
Earmarking the money for individual towns is key, Pallone said, because each beach town knows what has worked best for it in the past. Some ideas work, some don't, and often a hybrid of the different protective efforts is most appropriate.
"You can still have sand replenishment and have dune grasses as well, but there hasn't been the emphasis on these natural or living shorelines," Pallone said.
While this is a federal bill, it was suggested to Pallone by New Jersey environmental groups, and stands to benefit the shoreline in the Garden State, with sea level rise worsening year after year.
Pallone said the utilization of these natural resources may improve water quality, filter pollution, better protect coastal wildlife, and reduce carbon levels in the local environment.
The congressman hopes the bill will be fully passed in this session; Vice President Kamala Harris was its lead sponsor in its previous iteration while she was a senator, and Pallone expects the Senate, in which Harris is now the tiebreaking vote, to follow through.
"I think we have a good chance of getting this bill past the Senate, and on the President's desk and signed," he said.