Washington, D.C. — Early in the morning of Feb. 9, Congress passed HR 1892, legislation that set two year spending limits (“budget cap”), lifted the debt ceiling, and allowed for a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government for six weeks while a final FY18 budget can be drafted. It also included a Disaster Response bill to address the 2017 hurricanes and wildfires. The budget cap and debt ceiling have ramifications for coastal spending because they impact the full economy, but the Disaster Response bill directly provides hundreds of millions of dollars for coastal restoration and resilience. ASBPA was pleased to see the bill included, at some level, all the funding for which we had been advocating.
Key funding for coastal and beach restoration included:
- $810 million for Flood Control & Coastal Emergencies (FCCE). This is funding the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) uses to rebuild flood infrastructure, including beaches and dunes, after federal emergencies.
- $15 billion for constructing flood and storm damage reduction projects (including shore protection). Of this, $10.425 billion must be used for states affected by Harvey, Irma, and Maria. But the remaining $5.5 billion may be used for projects in states that have had more than one flood-related major disaster declaration between 2014 and 2017.
- $135 million for USACE investigations, including feasibility and regional studies. Of this, $75 million must be used for states affected by Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The remaining funds may be used for projects in states that have had more than one flood-related major disaster declaration between 2014 and 2017. These funds could be used for South Atlantic Coastal Study, an expansion of the Southeast Coastal Assessment.
- $40 million for mapping and charting affected coastlines and navigation channels by NOAA.
- $50 million to improve weather forecasting, hurricane intensity forecasting and flood forecasting and mitigation capabilities for NOAA.
All of the above funds were authorized at full federal expense; they do not require a local cost-share.
The bill also appropriated $23.5 billion to FEMA’s “Disaster Relief Fund.” State and locals can use these funds to rebuild a wide variety of infrastructure damaged in federally declared disasters, including locally funded beach projects that are eligible for FEMA “Category G” funds. (See FEMA’s handbook for eligible uses of the Disaster Relief Fund.) Additional funding was provided for Community Development Block Grants and to federal highway system, both of which could be accessed for coastal resilience improvements for the right projects.
Coastal communities – particular those in the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast – will need to work with their local USACE districts and FEMA reps to determine exactly what projects can be funded and next steps. However, this is a massive infusion of federal funding for beach and coastal restoration and resilience that will need to be used wisely to prevent future storms from having the devastating impacts that 2017 hurricanes had.