Water bill a ‘WIIN’ for U.S. coastlines
Published - 12/27/16 - 06:01 AM | 3473 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
On Dec. 10, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act” or the “WIIN Act” (also known as the Water Resource Development Act [WRDA]), which includes provisions to help protect, restore, and increase the resilience of U.S. coastlines. The bill passed the House 360-61 and the Senate 78-21.

“Sediment is a critical resource for building and restoring protective beach and dune systems and restoring coastal environments. S.612 establishes an important pilot program that would allow coastal communities, states and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to beneficially use dredged sediment,” said Derek Brockbank, executive director of American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA).

“Supporting regional sediment management is just one way the WIIN Act helps coastal communities prepare for hurricanes and coastal storms. The WIIN also supports coastal resilience and sea level rise planning and tells the Corps of Engineers to assess the ability of natural and nature-based features – such as beaches, dunes and wetlands – to reduce flood risk.”

“The Coastal States Organization commends Congress for acting in bipartisan fashion to address the country’s coastal challenges,” noted Bradley Watson, Director of Coastal Resilience at the Coastal States Organization (CSO). “It is important that water resources legislation is considered and acted on and each Congress is given its potential to address immediate and long term challenges facing our nation’s coasts” he concludes.

This WRDA authorized water infrastructure projects – including seven hurricane and storm damage risk reduction projects on the coasts of South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Louisiana and California – as well as other coastal and inland flood risk reduction and environmental restoration projects.

In addition to authorizing projects, WRDA also establishes a number of policies and authorizes studies to help improve coastal resilience across the country. They include:

Section 1122 – Beneficial Use of Dredged Material. Establishes a pilot program for the beneficial use of dredged sediment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) without being constrained by the Federal Standard. The placement of dredged sand and other sediment on beaches, dunes, and coastal wetlands can serve multiple benefits, including flood and storm risk reduction, ecological restoration, and adaptation to sea level rise. As sediment sources become increasingly scarce, managing sediment as a resource is essential for the USACE to achieve its multiple missions. This provision would allow the USACE to choose 10 project areas to beneficially use sediment with a federal cost-share (rather than being paid for entirely by local sponsors). It also allows states that are doing regional sediment management projects to more effectively use sediment dredged from both federally and non-federally authorized navigation projects.

Section 1183 – Coastal Engineering. Directs USACE to prioritize feasibility studies for coastal projects, including “shoreline restoration, tidal marsh restoration, [and] dunal habitats to protect coastal infrastructure,” from rising sea levels. It also authorizes “regional assessments of coastal and back bay protection and of Federal and State policies and programs related to coastal water resources.” Flood risk and coastal hazards do not follow state or USACE District lines and neither should their solutions. Furthermore, many branches of government have overlapping jurisdiction in promoting resilience to coastal hazards. This section will promote interstate, intergovernmental collaboration so that the states can have an increased role in developing solutions that are tailored to their region and federal agencies are coordinating with states and each other.

Section 1184 – Consideration of Measures. Directs the USACE to consider, as appropriate, all measures for coastal risk reduction, including natural, nature-based, nonstructural, and structural measures, when developing projects for coastal risk reduction.

Sections 1128 & 1129 – Multistate Activities & Planning Assistance to States. Allows states to jointly apply for planning and technical assistance from the USACE for coordinated interstate efforts with regional and national importance. Section 1129 includes a cost-share waiver up to $200,000 for all studies and projects for Island Territories.

Section 1204 – South Atlantic Coastal Study. Directs the USACE to conduct a study of the coastal areas located within the geographic boundaries of the South Atlantic Division of USACE (North Carolina to Alabama) to identify the risks and vulnerabilities of those areas to increased hurricane and storm damage as a result of sea level rise. This study will also include a focus on sediment resources and coastal erosion issues.

Founded in 1926, the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is a nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org.
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