Bipartisan Coastal Protection Bill Flies through Senate Committee

The Strengthening Coastal Communities Act will expand a decades-old law that buffers people and birds from flooding.
American Oystercatchers. Photo: Jesse Gordon/Audubon Photography Awards

WASHINGTON (September 27, 2023) – Today the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted to advance the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2023, a bill introduced by Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). This bipartisan legislation will update and modernize the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, a law that for more than 40 years has protected undeveloped beaches, wetlands, and other coastal areas while saving taxpayers billions of dollars. 

“Birds and people urgently need more protection on our coasts from storms and flooding. This bill meets that challenge by extending the benefits of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act to more areas along the coast,” said Portia Mastin, coastal conservation policy manager at National Audubon Society. “It will also identify the areas where marshes and beaches can naturally migrate inland as sea levels rise. Without this, we risk losing many of our wetlands, our birds, and the buffers that protect our coastal communities.”

Established in 1982, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) prevents most federal spending in flood-prone coastal areas. The current CBRA system includes 3.5 million acres of undeveloped barrier islands, beaches, inlets, and wetlands along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Last year, the Department of the Interior recommended that Congress add over 277,000 acres to the CBRA system in nine states hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy to save federal tax dollars offer and better protect the Atlantic Coast from New Hampshire to Virginia against future storms.

The Strengthening Coastal Communities Act will implement those recommendations and add new protected areas to the system in other states that are vulnerable to storms and sea-level rise, including South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. It will also authorize a pilot project to identify new upland areas where beaches and marshes can naturally migrate as sea levels rise, and expand the definition of coastal landforms included in the system.

A recent study found that CBRA is highly effective at achieving its intended goals—reducing development by 85% in flood-prone areas, reducing flood damage in nearby communities by 25%, and adding ecologically important layers of protection This protection ensures that coastal birds like American Oystercatchers and Piping Plovers that rely on these areas can nest, feed, and rest safely. These healthy, protected habitats also act as nature’s speed bumps, buffering nearby communities from storms and floodwaters. By removing taxpayer-funded subsidies for development in hazardous coastal areas, CBRA promotes public safety and has saved federal taxpayers nearly $10 billion over 25 years.


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Media contact: Rachel Guillory,