December 10, 2019

House Passes Kilmer Bill to Help Coastal Tribes Facing Severe Weather Threats

Bipartisan Legislation Included in House Package to Combat Climate Change and Protect Coastal Communities

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve a package of bipartisan bills to protect vulnerable coastal and Great Lakes communities impacted by climate change. The package includes bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) that would provide dedicated resources to Native American tribes living in coastal areas to support their efforts to mitigate threats caused by climate change and sea level rise. In addition, the bill creates programs to support Tribal, State, and local community projects that protect, restore, and preserve coastal zones and working waterfronts; helps communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change; and improves data collection and monitoring to strengthen coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes management.

“Climate change is real and it requires bold action,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Our region has seen severe storms and rising sea levels threaten communities. We’ve seen homes and community centers in Taholah face water damage. We’ve seen the Quileute Tribal School in La Push be in the crosshairs of a rising ocean. We’ve seen coastal challenges threaten public safety, public access, and cultural landmarks for these tribes and others, including the Hoh and Makah Tribes. I’m grateful the package of bills passed today includes a bipartisan bill I’ve introduced, the Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act, to provide tribal communities with direct access to much needed resources to enhance their coastal resiliency and keep their people out of harm’s way. I’m proud that the House is continuing to take action to combat climate change by passing actionable, ambitious, bipartisan bills that can not only help our planet – but create quality jobs and keep communities safe. It’s great news that the House passed this legislation, and I hope the Senate will enable this to become law.”

“I would like to thank the House of Representatives for considering and passing the Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act today. I would also like to thank Congressman Derek Kilmer for his continued leadership and work in Congress to address climate change,” said Fawn Sharp, President, Quinault Indian Nation. “This bill will make available to Tribes grant funding for the protection and preservation of Tribal coastal zones and areas. This funding will be very helpful to every Tribe that is dealing with rising sea level, and coastal and shoreline degradation and destabilization due to climate change. I urge the Senate to immediately pass this important legislation.”

“Coastal treaty tribes are on the front lines of climate change. They face severe storms, sea-level rise, flooding, loss of traditional resources and more,” said Mike Stevens, Washington State Director, The Nature Conservancy. “Rep. Kilmer’s Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act is an important step forward to help tribal nations confront these challenges.”

“This package of bills underscores the importance of vibrant coastal communities to our nation, and honors the leadership of Indian Tribes in protecting and restoring coastal areas. These bills will both accelerate the recovery of Puget Sound and protect our communities and economy,” said Laura Blackmore, Executive Director, Puget Sound Partnership. “The Living Shorelines Act fully supports one of the Puget Sound Action Agenda’s main goals: restore the nearshore habitat which has been so badly damaged over the years by construction of seawalls. The recently released State of the Sound report demonstrates the immediate need to pass these bills and get actions underway to restore the well-being of the people and ecosystems that comprise the Puget Sound region.”

“As the director of one of the largest Sea Grant programs, I applaud the House and Representative Kilmer for supporting this legislation to reauthorize the Sea Grant Program and reinforce its STEM education mandate as well as the Knauss Fellowship Program. Sea Grant fosters cost-effective partnerships among state universities, state and local governments, NOAA, and coastal communities and businesses, including those in Washington State, leveraging nearly $3 for every $1 received from the government,” said W. Russell Callender, Director of Washington Sea Grant.

Among the key provisions included in the H.R. 729:

Supporting Resilient Coasts

Kilmer’s Tribal Coastal Resiliency Act provides federal resources to Native American tribes living in coastal areas to support their efforts to mitigate threats caused by climate change and sea level rise. The bill would modernize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) Coastal Zone Management Grant Program to create a dedicated set-aside for tribal communities to secure grant funding to support key projects that will protect their people and landmarks from changing landscapes and weather events.

Coastal tribes are increasingly confronting persistent flooding, mold damage, tsunami threats, and erosion. Washington state has over 3,000 miles of marine coastline, where 17 tribal communities have made their homes since time immemorial. To date, tribes such as the Quileute Nation village of La Push, the Hoh Tribe, the Makah Tribe, and the Quinault Indian Nation have begun the process of moving assets and people to higher ground. This dedicated funding is critical to supporting these efforts.

Rep. Kilmer’s bipartisan bill recognizes tribal sovereignty by amending the Coastal Zone Management Act to allow tribal governments to directly compete for Coastal Zone Management Grants, instead of requiring them to petition states to prioritize their projects. This parity is essential given the severe challenges tribal governments face in implementing coastal and shoreline measures that support public safety, public access, and cultural and historic preservation.

Protecting Living Shorelines

H.R. 729 also include bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Kilmer to establish a grant program to fund the design, implementation, and monitoring of climate resilient living shoreline projects intended to protect coastal communities and ecosystem functions from environmental conditions, particularly those impacted by climate change. Eligible projects include the removal of shoreline armoring and restoration of nearshore habitat for juvenile salmon, which not only improve resilience, but are also are among the top priorities for the Puget Sound Partnership’s Action Agenda to protect and restore Puget Sound.

Keeping America’s Waterfronts Working

The package also includes a bipartisan bill Rep. Kilmer co-sponsored to establish a working waterfront grant program to protect and enhance coastal access for marine-dependent commercial activities. Working waterfronts – which include waterfront property, infrastructure, and waterways that provide access to coastal waters for people in commercial and recreational fishing businesses, boatbuilding, aquaculture, or other water-dependent activities – are essential for supporting coastal economies. Despite their intrinsic economic value, working waterfronts are facing numerous threats, including pressure from competing land use plans, aging infrastructure, changing regulations, coastal hazards, and environmental impacts from climate change. This program would create a new federal incentive to help local communities like Westport and Port Angeles make strategic investments to support their working waterfronts.

Supporting the National Sea Grant College Program

Additionally, the package includes a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Rep. Kilmer to reauthorize and update the National Sea Grant College Program, increasing the efficacy of Sea Grant’s educational, research, and extension programs. Sea Grant sends nearly 95 percent of its appropriated funds to coastal states for competitive grants that enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine, and Great Lakes resources. For every federal dollar appropriated, Sea Grant leverages nearly $3 from partnerships among state universities, state and local governments, and coastal communities and businesses.