For Immediate Release: Jun 21, 2019
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Coastal Barrier Islands under Surprise Attack in House
Budget Amendment Allows Stripping Islands for Beach “Renourishment”
Washington, DC — A move afoot in the House of Representatives to allow sand mining of coastal barriers on the Atlantic and Gulf is both ecologically damaging and economically shortsighted, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) which is trying to stop the amendment. The proposal would allow coastal barriers to be stripped of sand in order to “renourish” developed beaches losing sand from tidal flows.
Since 1982, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) has protected 3.5 million acres of wetlands, beaches, and coastal barrier islands along the eastern seaboard, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes that serve as barriers against wind and tides from coastal storms and provide irreplaceable habitat for numerous species.
The pending amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Act for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies would allow sand and sediment mining from undeveloped areas in the Coastal Barrier Resources System (CBRS) to conduct beach renourishment on developed beaches outside of the system. It is being offered by a bipartisan group of coastal legislators, Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ). Garret Graves (R-LA), and David Rouzer (R-NC) and would overturn a 1994 Department of Interior Solicitor’s opinion that sand and/or sediments dredged from the CBRS can only be used to restore or protect the CBRS units themselves and could not be used on developed beaches elsewhere.
“If this amendment passes, undeveloped barrier islands and inlets will be ravaged by a rush of local beach rebuilding projects that will both wreak severe environmental destruction and greatly aggravate storm damage,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney and scientist formerly with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, noting that the proposal has not been reviewed by a single congressional committee. “The very good reasons Congress enacted these protections more than 35 years ago are even more compelling today.”
In a letter of opposition to House leaders, PEER points out the proposed amendment would likely –
- Increase storm-caused losses in human life;
- Create additional billions of dollars of storm damage, citing a recent study finding that CBRA “reduced federal coastal disaster expenditures by $9.5 billion (in 2016 dollars) between 1989 and 2013. Future CBRA savings are forecast to range between $11 billion and $108 billion by 2068;” and
- Allow vital coastal fish and wildlife habitats to be disrupted and destroyed.
“Congress cannot halt sea level rise, especially in light of this Administration’s refusal to stem greenhouse gas emissions,” added Bennett, arguing that effects of sea-level rise and other climate-induced landscape alterations cannot be engineered away. “This amendment epitomizes penny-wise and pound-foolish budget policy.”