California Sen. Alex Padilla announced legislation Tuesday to protect coastal communities from rising sea levels and stronger storms as a result of climate change.
The Living Shorelines Act of 2021 aims to create two federal grant programs through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. One program will focus on assisting states, localities and nongovernmental organizations in constructing shorelines, and another program will provide grants for researching shoreline development to help protect coastal cities from climate change.
“The Living Shorelines Act will help us protect our coastal communities from the effects of climate change,” said New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. in a press release from Padilla’s office. “Strengthening living shorelines will also improve the local environment by supporting water quality and habitats for local wildlife and fish as well as provide enhanced opportunities for recreation.”
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal will join Padilla in the introduction of the bill to the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks, while Pallone has led the bill’s introduction in the House of Representatives.
Climate change continues to be a national issue, according to the press release. Most native wetlands in the Bay Area have been removed for human benefits, leaving the environment vulnerable to climate change threats, according to Dennis Baldocchi, UC Berkeley professor of biometeorology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.
Local communities experiencing rising sea levels, especially as a result of melting ice caps, face considerable financial impacts and require “barriers” in place to protect them, Baldocchi added.
“We’ve known about this for a long time, but we haven’t seemed to do anything until now,” Baldocchi said. “It’s going to cost us a lot more because we waited for so long. I take my hat off to him for trying. It is a reasonable solution.”
To protect shorelines in the Bay Area, the California State Coastal Conservancy is currently working with 17 regional partners to implement the San Francisco Bay Living Shorelines Project, according to a press release from Padilla’s office. The project aims to use native eelgrass and oyster beds to create reefs that decrease “wave energy” to reduce flooding and erosion.
With the introduction of the Living Shorelines Act of 2021, the ongoing fight against climate change can be met with more environmentally friendly projects, according to the press release.
“Living shoreline infrastructure is already helping states like California utilize wetlands and other nature-based features to buffer communities from sea level rise and extreme weather,” Padilla said in a statement. “The Living Shorelines Act makes critical investments in natural infrastructure projects to better protect communities while restoring habitat and stimulating local economic development, taking us one step closer to climate change resiliency.”