BIL & IRA Funds to Transform Coastal Resilience

Apr 21, 2023

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it will invest $77 million this year in National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRS) and Coastal Zone Management (CZM) programs to advance high impact projects that will protect people and property on the coasts.

Funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), and leveraged with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), these projects will build on a half century of work with coastal communities to protect and manage the natural infrastructure that is the best defense against the impacts of climate change.

“An investment like this is a statement of value,” says Rebecca Roth, executive director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA). “It signals that NOAA, the Department of Commerce, Congress, and the Biden-Harris Administration understand we must transform the way we care for our coasts and Great Lakes, and that it begins with sustaining the lands with great economic, recreational, and environmental significance.”

In the Reserve System, $23 million will support 13 projects focused on land conservation and habitat restoration and capacity-building within all 30 Reserves. Coastal Zone Management Programs will receive $54.4 million for coastal infrastructure projects and capacity-building. NOAA also announced $32 million in funding over the next five years to support Reserves and CZM programs in advancing community resilience in ways that best serve each state and territory.

“Every Reserve continually works with partners and local, Native and Indigenous communities to identify the places with the highest value and manage them as effectively as possible,” says Roth. “Based on research and local knowledge, Reserves often know what to protect and have a plan for how, but the next step of acquiring land or restoring a habitat takes a catalytic investment like the BIL grants provide.”

States and territories have partnered with the federal government through the Coastal Zone Management Act for over 50 years to manage and enhance natural resources in the U.S. Coastal Zone. However, for the past two decades, federal investment in coastal economies and infrastructure has stagnated, even as challenges faced by coastal communities have escalated.

The BIL and IRA funding announced today indicates the tide is turning. It represents the first of five years of increased resilience funding from BIL and IRA and a transformational moment for the nation’s coasts and the people and land most at risk from climate change.

Some of the 13 Research Reserve Projects funded today are listed below; for a description of all of the funded projects, visit NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management website.

  • Large Debris Removal and the Establishment of a Regional Center for Marine Debris: the the University of Alaska Anchorage will receive $1,272,383 to work with the City of Homer and Kachemak Bay Reserve to acquire 55 acres of peatland, an area that provides habitat for fish and coastal wildlife, and improves water quality for salmon and other fish.
  • Establishing Regional Restoration Visions and Identifying Projects within the Lake Superior Headwaters Sustainability Partnership Region: The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will receive $350,000 to develop actionable habitat restoration visions for congruent geographic regions within the St. Louis River Estuary. They will work with the Lake Superior Reserve and the Lake Superior Headwaters Sustainability Partnership, a consortium of federal, tribal, state, county, municipal, and community partners working to implement sustainable, landscape-level conservation in the headwaters of Lake Superior.
  • Padilla Bay Samish Conservation Area Protection Project: The Washington State Department of Ecology will receive $2.3 million to work with the Padilla Bay Reserve to protect and restore 74.5 acres of former and current tidal marsh—part of a larger overall effort to restore up to 105 acres of tidal marsh to Padilla Bay.
  • Wasson Creek Watershed Ridgetop-to-Estuary Restoration Project: The Oregon Department of State Lands will receive $3,535,900 to restore the ecological health of and cultural connections with the Wasson Creek watershed in the South Slough Reserve.
  • Protection and Restoration of a Bird Nesting Island in Aransas Bay: the University of Texas at Austin will receive $4,000,000 to work with the Mission-Aransas Reserve and the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program to protect and restore a three-acre island in Aransas Bay that provides critical nesting habitat for colonial nesting waterbirds that are important to the ecological resilience of the bay and local economies.

For more information contact:
Rebecca Roth, Executive Director, National Estuarine Research Reserve Association,;  202-236-4819



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