Bill would help create living shorelines

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and others in the Senate have introduced the Living Shorelines Act, legislation that would create a new grant program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for nature-based shoreline protection projects known as living shorelines.

Living shorelines are a type of green infrastructure that protect and stabilize coastal edges by using natural materials such as plants, sand, shell, or rock. Unlike a concrete seawall or other artificial structure, which impedes the growth of plants and animals, living shorelines can grow over time, allowing them to adapt to changing conditions. Using green and natural infrastructure, communities can create a buffer that mitigates the impacts of shoreline flooding by reducing wave energy and decreasing erosion. Green infrastructure is cost-effective and can also provide benefits such as improved local water quality and ecology.

Murphy held a listening session on the legislation in Essex on Friday.

“Preserving the shorelines of Long Island Sound is critical to Connecticut’s economy. Coastal resiliency projects like building marshes or restoring wetlands protect our coast and help the environment. The Living Shorelines Act will help towns fund projects to fortify against future storms and rising sea levels, while improving water quality and restoring wildlife habitat,” Murphy said in a press release. “This bill will help rejuvenate big stretches of our coast that communities across the state rely on.”

“Investing in natural infrastructure projects, such as living shorelines, is important to reduce risk from floods and storms. We applaud the introduction of this bill, which will advance the use of nature as a tool to enhance coastal resilience,” said Sarah Murdock, Director of Climate Resilience at The Nature Conservancy. “It’s important to increase support for natural infrastructure projects and highlight the multiple benefits that investing in nature delivers to communities. In addition to flood and storm risk reduction, these projects can enhance water quality, aquatic habitat and recreation opportunities.”

“The society applauds Senators Harris and Murphy for introducing the Living Shorelines Act in the Senate, which would provide critical funding for coastal communities to work with landscape architects and other design professionals and build a stronger future,” said Nancy C. Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The act authorizes $25 million per year to projects able to demonstrate that they have or will be able to obtain any local, state, or federal permits or necessary authorizations. It prioritizes areas that have received a Stafford Act disaster declaration or areas that have a documented history of coastal inundation, flooding, or erosion.