US coastal cities could benefit from billions of dollars in climate deal funding
Written by Stephanie Lai
Claire Arre, a marine biologist, wading through the sand to seek an Olympia oyster on a recent, sunny afternoon and was observing the bed that her group had created to clear the watershed surrounding it and thinking about the possibilities when she gets the federal funds to further expand her work.
Arre’s initiative aims at combating the effects of climate change by using nature, not human-engineered structures It is also one of the nation’s coastal counties of 254 that are capable of receiving billions of federal funds through the Inflation Reduction Act, the expanding climate health care and tax bill that was signed by the president Joe Biden.
The plan may “have a direct result in getting our next restoration project off the ground and sharing the beneficial impacts here into another area,” said Arre Director of marine restoration at Orange County Coastkeeper, a non-profit group while she carefully scanned the area, which was with sandbars and rocks, pickleweed, along with docked boat docks.
The organization hopes to expand its operations to Huntington Harbour, and it is seeking funds for this purpose.
A small-noticed part of Democrats’ climate legislation that was the biggest federal investment ever made to stop the warming of the planet injected $2.6 billion over the course of five years to communities along the coasts of America by granting grants to finance projects to prepare and prepare for dangerous weather-related disturbances and climate-related events. This program is just 1% of total climate investments under the law, yet it is widely considered to be an important step and is the latest indication of a shift in the federal government to fund natural-based solutions to climate change.
Officials from coast to coastline have been seeking funding for years in order to restore the natural environment which is essential for beach communities as flooding creates destruction across areas of the East while rising sea levels threaten the West. In 2050, sea levels are projected to increase to 1 foot rising as fast in the same time as they have done over the last century.
Scientists predict the effects of climate change to be more devastating in the coming years. The rising sea levels are being exacerbated by floods and cataclysmic rainstorms, also known as “mega-storms,” that could cause havoc to San Francisco and cities across the world. Along the East Coast, sea-level rise and the floods caused by rainfall have been threatening cities such as Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida and many others. Cities face a variety of issues, such as repairing damaged drains and roads or relocating inland. The cost of such actions is a new challenge.
“Our coastal areas are shrinking before our very eyes, and people are being displaced,” said Rep. Troy Carter, D-La. The state in which he grew up has lost over 22,000 square miles of coastline approximately as large as Delaware since the 1930s. The coastal restoration fund “is a grand-slam home run,” he declared.
Climate change is threatening to become more severe, prompting the ongoing debate between experts and policymakers on the best way to protect ourselves from catastrophic damage. The debate is between those who favor the construction of infrastructure, such as sea walls — often known as “gray infrastructure” — and those who prefer natural solutions, also known as green infrastructure.
Some scientists and climate groups consider climate legislation to be an obvious signal to the public that they are putting the most important for natural alternatives.
“You are seeing a lot more attention and acceptance of greener options,” said Charles Lester, the director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s a spectrum of ways of responding to shoreline change, and this funding is causing us to think more completely and more holistically about all the different pieces of these puzzles.”
Tom Cors, a government relations officer for the Nature Conservancy, said the resilience funds provided by the climate law along with the resources included in the infrastructure law that was passed this year, represent the biggest increase in green infrastructure. This is the most recent step in a process that began around 10 years ago.
The bipartisan infrastructure package has added $3 billion to the federal fund for projects that deal with habitat restoration and climate resilience. However, the funds have not yet been released as the application process is still in process According to National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. About half of it is allocated to “high-impact natural infrastructure projects.”
In 2020, Biden signed legislation that required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the principal civil engineering department of the government, which has traditionally been a fan of gray infrastructure, to think about natural solutions in the initial design phase of certain projects.
The money for the new climate law will be allocated to NOAA and NOAA is expected to offer funding through grants, contracts, or other arrangements to state, local as well as a tribal governments, as well as nonprofits as well as institutions of higher education. The law states that the funds should be allocated to projects to help preserve natural resources within marine and coastal communities, including the restoration of wetlands or the restoration of sea grass and oyster beds. The law also stipulated that the funds are to be used to safeguard the fisheries as well as safeguard communities from severe storms as well as climate changes.
For instance, including sand in the dunes or restoring them to create a buffer for the shoreline that is receding. The restoration of wetlands also assists in the absorption of stormwater and carbon dioxide element that is found in the atmosphere and responsible to be greenhouse gas -and also contributes to biodiversity. The flow of water can be reduced by the restoration of sea grass and oyster beds.
Amy Hutzel, the executive director of California’s State Coastal Conservancy, the largest state-wide natural restoration agency and said she was happy that the climate legislation focused on projects that are based on nature, which will reduce the effect of wave and wind patterns on the coast rather than the construction of sea walls and levees.
When a city builds the levee or sea wall the wall “is immediately deteriorating,” Hutzel explained. “When you work with nature, you are building a system that the natural processes are maintaining.”
Some researchers believe this method is cheaper than human-made construction projects. An New York City study in Queens revealed that gray infrastructure could cost twice as much as incorporating both gray as well as green projects.
However, solutions based on nature, though attractive, can be difficult to implement, Lester noted.
Jennifer Brunton, the New York district water business line head at WSP the engineering consulting firm, told me that many of her clients stay against green infrastructure due to the fact that they don’t have enough space to implement nature-based strategies and also because it’s not common.
“They’re hallmark projects,” Brunton stated. “Gray infrastructure is tried and true.”
Gray infrastructure has been traditionally favoured by people living on the coast who will sacrifice access to the beach when it involves the construction of concrete structures that will protect their properties and municipal officials that are skeptical of the efficacy of green infrastructure. Gray infrastructure advocates claim that green infrastructure requires ongoing maintenance, whereas gray infrastructures are simpler to maintain.
In the city of Pacifica, California, homeowners such as Mark Stechbart, a retiree and a retired man, have been urging an increase in gray infrastructure to counter the rising sea level that is threatening their property. The coastline of the Northern California community does not have the conditions needed that would allow for greener infrastructure said Stechbart and the city are left with two options: either go gray or move inland.
“Gray infrastructure, at least around here, is the only thing that works,” Stechbart declared during an interview. “Either we have a town that functions or we don’t.”
He also said, “There are some areas where if you don’t maintain and improve shoreline protections, a major hotel goes in the water.”
Both parties’ lawmakers have supported initiatives based on nature-based infrastructure however Republicans opposed the climate legislation in large numbers.
“Investing in natural infrastructure projects will better protect coastal communities while restoring habitat and stimulating local economic development,” Sen. Alex Padilla, D-C. In an official statement.
Rep. Michelle Steel, from California. She has backed natural resiliency initiatives within her district, including adding sand in Huntington Beach. In a statement outlining the reasons she was against in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act, Steel said “We need to cut federal spending and get costs under control instead of expecting American families to foot the bill for Washington’s spending addiction.”
Rep. Garret Graves, Republican from Louisiana. He is a proponent of projects to improve resilience and opposed the vote. In a statement written by him that he wrote, he stated that he had no confidence that NOAA will remain “fair or transparent” when making the allocation of funds.