This article first appeared in The Seattle Times on August 9, 2017. Crystal Dingler is the mayor of Ocean Shores, WA and Mike Cassinelli is the former mayor of Ilwaco, WA.
Summer is the busy season here on the Washington coast, when we see our biggest influx of visitors eager to experience the breathtaking beauty and natural wealth of towns and beaches from the Columbia River to Neah Bay.
Ocean Shores alone hosted 4.8 million people in 2016, and we expect as many or more this year. That’s a lot for a town with less than 6,000 permanent residents, but as anyone who has visited knows, we have a world-class beach that’s fun and safe for families.
While tourism is the economic bedrock for most of our communities, for others it’s fish. Ilwaco has a world-class commercial and recreational fishing port, bringing in large amounts of fresh salmon, crab and tuna.
Our coastal communities share a common bond: livelihoods that depend on a clean ocean, abundant marine life and well-managed shorelines. It’s a tough job with a lot of moving parts. Because Washington’s coastal towns are small towns, we work together—with support from various National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs—to manage and protect our ocean resources. Our partnership with NOAA runs the gamut, from salmon habitat protection and habitat restoration jobs, to a tsunami warning system, to funding that helps ensure the viability of our shellfish industry.
Visit any U.S. coastal town and you’ll hear the same thing: We can’t protect our citizens from floods and tsunamis, keep fishermen safe and fisheries viable, or maintain tourism without NOAA. Whether it is big storms coming off the Pacific or the threat of East Coast hurricanes, we all rely on the agency’s expertise and funding.
Our world-class beaches require ongoing monitoring and maintenance to keep them healthy and safe. The NOAA-managed Coastal Zone Management Program helps local governments like ours plan and manage shoreline development by keeping homes and buildings away from erosion-prone areas that put people and property in harm’s way. Without this type of proactive planning we would see unsafe development—homes and businesses literally swallowed up by the ocean.
We also live with some harsh weather. When our fishing boats head out, the skippers know what they face thanks to NOAA-funded weather monitoring. Losing that real-time data wouldn’t just make their jobs harder— it would put lives at risk.
The bottom line
The Washington coast is a special place. Life is different for those of us who live here year-round. We listen to the surf at night and the seabirds in the morning. Our days are governed by the tides. Soon enough the tourists go home, but the work of maintaining what we have, the economic foundations of coastal communities, will continue. A big part of that runs through NOAA.