What Does the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Mean for Our Ocean?

4 ocean infrastructure inclusions we’re excited for

In case you haven’t heard, it’s finally infrastructure week, and American infrastructure is getting a much-needed overhaul. On Monday, President Biden is set to sign into law the bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA), which makes long overdue investments into everything from our ports and waterways to roads and bridges to our drinking water and broadband access.

This investment into American infrastructure is a huge achievement for our ocean and represents a significant opportunity for the United States to begin to invest in solutions to mitigate and make our communities more resilient to climate change. We know we cannot stop here. Passing the Build Back Better Act as well is essential to transitioning to the clean energy future that we will need if we are going to avoid the worst-case scenario impacts of climate change. But the IIJA will lay important groundwork and benefit our ocean and coastal communities. It is an achievement worth celebrating!

So, let’s take a look at what IIJA will mean for our ocean and our coasts. At Ocean Conservancy, we’ve been working tirelessly to ensure that Congress and the Biden administration rebuild our coasts, reduce pollution and create a cleaner environment for our ocean and coastal communities. Here are four benefits for our ocean and coasts that we’re excited most about with the passage of the IIJA:

  • Nearly $1 billion for coastal restoration: Our coastal ecosystems provide enormous benefits to the wildlife and communities that reside in or near them. In addition to the habitat these ecosystems provide for wildlife, coastal ecosystems can also provide protection against storm surges and coastal flooding and sequester carbon dioxide—all while providing jobs to local communities and the economic benefits that come with a healthy ecosystem.
  • $2.25 billion for the Maritime Administration to invest in port infrastructure, including initiatives to reduce pollution from our vessels and ports: The maritime sector is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the coal plants in the United States combined, and ports are hotspots of local emissions. Ports, at-berth vessels and supporting equipment such as trucks are often major producers of air pollution—and disproportionately impact communities residing near ports, which are often lower-income and communities of color. The investments in our ports and waterways through IIJA provide an immense opportunity to begin to take meaningful action to address the climate and environmental justice impacts of emissions and air pollution at our nation’s ports.
  • $200 million for marine debris prevention, mitigation and removal through NOAA and $500 million for pollution prevention initiatives and recycling system improvements through EPA: Estimates state that as much as 11 million metric tons of plastic enter our ocean every year. This funding will provide critical resources to better address marine debris and waste management.
  • $56 million for Regional Ocean Partnerships (ROPs)to improve regional ocean planning and data sharing: ROPs facilitate collaboration with states, Tribes, federal agencies and other stakeholders to address ocean and coastal issues of common concern. They have operated in several regions for more than a decade. The resources provided in IIJA will be critical to ensuring that ROPs are able to continue providing the data and collaborative venue needed to promote evidence-based management, coordinate solutions to coastal hazards and promote coastal resilience, and support the responsible development of offshore wind.

As we celebrate the passage of this important legislation, we must also look ahead. Our work is not over. While we were excited to see the IIJA head to the President’s desk, in order to protect our ocean and coasts and take meaningful action to address climate change, Congress must also pass the Build Back Better Act. The Build Back Better Act will make the necessary investments to reduce emissions, advance clean energy technology and provide resources to help communities and ecosystems adapt to the inevitable impacts from climate change. Packaged together, these two bills will lead to the transformative change that we need to jump-start the transition to a clean energy future and ensure our ocean is front and center as part of the solution.

The IIJA, along with the Build Back Better Act, can make monumental progress for the health and well-being of our ocean, coasts and the communities and ecosystems that rely on them. Tell Congress to pass the Build Back Better Act!

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