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Coastal Restoration Helps the Ocean Help Us

The Build Back Better Act provides critical support for coastal communities and our ocean

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© Toby Matthews

The ocean has absorbed nearly 33% of all greenhouse gas emissions and around 90% of the excess heat produced through climate change. It may seem like a good thing all around that the ocean is protecting us in this way, but the ocean actually pays a hefty price. If you’re not on the water or near the coast, much of this price may go unnoticed until there are disasters like stronger hurricanes, more intense flooding, coastal erosion or harmful algal blooms. Even if you aren’t directly affected by any of those types of disasters, the ocean still affects all of us, no matter where we live, by moderating our climate and providing us with the oxygen we need to breathe. These disasters have huge physical, economic, cultural and human impacts on our communities, especially those on the coast.

We know our ocean is at risk, and now is the time to help the ocean help us

In addition to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, we must shore up our natural coastlines. Currently, Congress can do both as it debates the Build Back Better Act which represents the largest investment opportunity in our ocean and coasts to date, including funding for coastal restoration and resilience projects.

Coastlines are a vital link between our ocean and our inland areas. They also represent a key intersection between the ocean and climate. Coastal habitats—like salt marshes, mangrove forests and seagrass meadows—provide homes for fish, shellfish, birds and other animals. These areas, in turn, provide recreational, commercial, and cultural value to local communities.

Coastal habitats offer massive climate benefits as well

They are living ecosystems that protect coastal communities from erosion, keep us safe from storm surges and offer food security.  When Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the northeastern United States, coastal wetlands helped prevent over $625 million in property damages. Homes that were built behind salt marshes in Ocean County, New Jersey, sustained 20% less property damage compared to areas where these marshes had been lost. By protecting and enlarging these ecosystems, we can help communities better prepare for increasingly destructive climate disasters like storms or floods. They also sequester carbon dioxide more efficiently than terrestrial forests.

Projects administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) demonstrate these multiple benefits. In Oregon, NOAA worked with community partners to restore 443 acres of the Tillamook estuary, protecting endangered Coho salmon habitat and producing reductions in flooding. Approximately 500 structures in the nearby town of Tillamook and Highway 101, a key transportation corridor, will now experience less damage from flooding, saving around $9.2 million over the next 50 years. In time, this site will also be able to store 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 21,000 cars from the road for a year.

Local job markets also benefit from these endeavors

Habitat restoration projects like this one support an average of 15 jobs per $1 million invested.

Funding for these coastal projects in the Build Back Better Act can protect the ocean and the communities that rely on it from climate change.

Tell your congressional representatives that they need to pass the Build Back Better Act and include funding for NOAA.

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