Merkley, Wyden Introduce Legislation to Help Communities Protect Coastal Shorelines

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have joined colleagues to introduce the Living Shorelines Act, legislation that would create a new grant program for nature-based shoreline protection projects known as living shorelines. As sea-level rise and coastal storms continue to threaten thousands of coastal communities and economies, investing in living shorelines can help reduce risk from floods and storms and increase the resiliency of Oregon’s coast.

“Coastal communities bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to the severe impacts of climate chaos —? from limited fishing seasons to increased ocean acidity that caused a die-off of baby oysters to erosion and flood concerns along our shores,” Merkley said. “Creating living shorelines that use natural materials and offer an ecological benefit will help Oregon’s coastal communities and economies be more resilient in the face of climate chaos. We need to help them make that investment.”

“Climate change is here, it’s happening now, and communities in Oregon and across America are already feeling its impacts,” Wyden said. “For states like Oregon where our coasts are treasured not only for their beauty, but also the economic value they provide, making investments to protect our coasts is just commonsense. We can’t afford inaction.”

Living shorelines are a type of green infrastructure that protect and stabilize coastal edges by using natural materials such as plants, sand, shell, or rock. Unlike a concrete seawall or other artificial structure, which impedes the growth of plants and animals, living shorelines can grow over time, allowing them to adapt to changing conditions. Using green and natural infrastructure, communities can create a buffer that mitigates the impacts of shoreline flooding by reducing wave energy and decreasing erosion. Green infrastructure is cost-effective and can also provide benefits such as improved local water quality and ecology.

The Living Shorelines Act will:

  • Establish a grant program to help states, towns, and NGOs implement climate resilient living shoreline projects and encourage the use of natural materials in the protection of coastal communities;
  • Direct NOAA to develop criteria to select grantees based on the potential of the project to protect the community, and the ecological benefits of the project, among other things;
  • Prioritize areas that have received a Stafford Act disaster declaration or areas that have a documented history of coastal inundation or erosion; and
  • Authorize $50 million a year for these grants.

Supporters of the Living Shorelines Act include The National Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy, and the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. In addition to Merkley and Wyden, the Living Shorelines Act is co-sponsored by Senators Harris (D-CA), Murphy (D-CT), Feinstein (D-CA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Menendez (D-NJ), and Booker (D-NJ).

For full bill text, click here.