Coastal activists bring their concerns to Washington
Leading advocacy group focuses on America’s coastal future
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the federal role in coastal management continues to evolve, coastal activists from around the country are coming to Washington next week to discuss “America’s Coastal Future” at the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association’s (ASBPA) annual Coastal Summit.
Nearly 55 percent of America’s population lives along the coast, and that number is expected to increase significant over the next quarter century. As the nation’s biggest tourist attraction, coastal regions attract 180 million tourist visits annually, pumping $260 billion into the U.S. economy, $3 billion into the federal treasury, and support for 15 million American middle class and service worker jobs.
“We want to reduce the risk for people who live or visit the coast and implement new approaches to protecting the environmental resources that make America’s coastal regions so unique,” said Mayor Harry Simmons of Caswell Beach, NC, the group’s president. “Our members are doing their part on the state and local levels. What we need is for the federal government to increase its investment in the coast. This is not a question of doing one or two more studies or projects. It is one of leadership and commitment to a future that begins by taking the right steps now. “
The Summit will also highlight ASBPA’s efforts to improve the health of the nation’s natural resources and restore those that are endangered. “Those of us who live along America’s coast know how important and fragile it is,” said Simmons. “We know that what happens along the coast affects everything that is landward and seaward of wide, sandy beaches and beautiful wetlands. As stewards of the coast, we want Washington to give a higher priority to its health and its future. Coasts and the oceans that surround them are simply not a significant congressional priority. We have come to our nation’s capital to change that by taking our plea to as many Members of Congress and other federal officials as we can.”
The diverse group of advocates includes state and local officials, coastal scientists and engineers, and others. The theme of this year’s Summit is “America’s Coastal Future,” with a primary focus on:
- Recognition of national benefits associated with federal navigation, shore protection and ecosystem restoration programs.
- Expansion of these programs to optimize their effectiveness/
- Prioritization of projects for federal and local-sponsor funding.
Recognition can be fostered through spotlighting the success stories surrounding restored beaches with, say, on-site signage and programs such as ASBPA's Best Restored Beaches award, as well as reinforcing that truth that coastal management works when you adopt it for the long haul – not through a one-off project. We can drive the point home (at home) when we work to tell coastal communities thorough and balanced stories of beaches, navigation, and ecosystems restored and maintained with federal funds.
Expansion means working with our coastal partners in the Corps and other federal agencies to make life after earmarks a time when projects get done and new ideas get pursued…such as:
- Comprehensive Regional Sediment Management, looking beyond the authorized channels to optimally manage all sediment resources affected by a federal project.
- Securing dedicated federal and non-federal funding sources.
- Allowing new starts and extending the 50-year project life of already authorized and critical projects.
- Allowing multiple-cross project federal authorizations entailing navigation, shore protection and ecosystem restoration – to comprehensively manage the coast, not just its parts.
- Taking advantage of new federal language allowing local contributed funds in support of existing federal projects.
Prioritization operates on two levels: Federally, it means moving forward with funding for shovel-ready projects that yield maximum federal benefits. Locally, it means working for federal support when it’s possible – and realizing when it’s not possible so you can pursue other funding options to restore your shoreline when it needs it, not just when you can get it funded.
The Summit will take place Feb 28-March 1 at the ASAE Conference Center, 1575 I Street NW, Washington, DC. Scheduled speakers include top officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and more, plus leaders from other coastal nongovernmental organizations and to private-sector coastal representatives.
As part of the Coastal Summit, ASBPA will honor Congressional coastal advocates and federal staffers who have been instrumental in the fight to preserve America’s beaches. Plus, the five beaches named as 2011's Best Restored Beaches will be in the spotlight at a special awards reception on Capitol Hill Feb. 29. They are:
- Isle of Palms, South Carolina
- Menauhant Beach, Massachusetts
- Miami Beach, Florida
- Moonlight Beach, California
- Presque Isle, Pennsylvania
Others being honored by ASBPA for their efforts on behalf of our country’s coastline are:
- Coastal Advocate – Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Delaware
- Friend of the Coast – Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana
- Friend of the Coast Media Award – The Weather Channel and Michael Seidel, for outstanding coverage of the impact to beaches by tropical systems, particularly Hurricane Irene in August 2011.
- Corps Award – Joan Pope, Assistant Director for Civil Works Research and Development, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
- Congressional Staffer Award – John Anderson, Majority Staff Director, Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
A complete Summit agenda is available online at www.asbpa.org.