NERRA Applauds Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act

Jan 3, 2024

2023 closed on a bright note for all of us who love estuaries! In December, Representatives Mike Levin (D-CA) and Brian Mast (R-FL) reintroduced the Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act. This bipartisan bill would reauthorize critical pieces of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), including the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) and the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).

As the nation’s first and only national land use planning law, the CZMA sets national policy to “preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance, the resources of the Nation’s coastal zone for this and succeeding generations.” The NERRS have grown programmatically and geographically since the law was last reauthorized 15 years ago, and updates to this statute and the programs it calls for are needed.

NERRA is working with NOAA and partners to establish new Reserves in Louisiana, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the next few years.

In addition to codifying the current work of the NERRS, The Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act would authorize the NERRS at $47,000,0000 annually from FY 2024 to FY 2028—an increase over currently appropriated levels— and directs the Secretary of Commerce to designate at least five new Reserves. It is currently co-sponsored by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Jen Kiggans (R-VA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Resident Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR). 

“As the challenges facing the coasts intensify, we need a CZMA that does more to help communities meet the impacts of a changing climate,” says Rebecca Roth, Director of the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA). “We applaud Representatives Levin, Mast, Bonamici, Kiggans, and others for proposing this bipartisan re-authorization of a unique and visionary legislation that will benefit the economy and our well-being, generations to come.”

The Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act would also reauthorize and revitalize CELCP by funding the program at $60 million annually and allowing it to fund nongovernmental organizations. It would allow state and local governments and nonprofits purchase threatened coastal and estuarine lands of ecological importance or other conservation value.  Such protection helps mitigate the impacts of climate change and other hazards, provide critical habitat, and increase opportunities for the public to visit and enjoy the coast.

In collaboration with partners like the Coastal States Organization and other national NGOs, NERRA is advocating for the Resilient Coasts and Estuaries Act. We are communicating with congressional offices, not only to seek their support of this bill, but to also educate and spotlight the work of coastal management and the importance of a strong CZMA. Additionally, we hope the Senate will introduce a companion bill in 2024…stay tuned!

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