Protecting the health and safety of our community members is of primary concern. As leaders of districts along the coast of Maine, this includes dealing with the impacts of climate change and planning for a prosperous future with these changes in mind.

A snowy white egret lands in the estuary in the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Reestablishing tidal exchange to upland wetlands in the refuge is one of the essential projects that Maine would be able to address with funds from a $10 billion federal coastal and ocean restoration program. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer, File

Maine’s coastline will feel the effects of climate change for generations, which means communities along our rugged shores will feel these effects, too. Rising seas and increasingly dangerous storm surge events threaten our local infrastructure and economies. One of the best ways to protect us from the effects of climate change is to invest in coastal restoration and resilience projects like shoreline stabilization and wetland restoration. Both offer environmental and economic benefits that can help our communities plan for the future.

As we grapple in our districts with the tremendous scope and cost of the coming changes, we are relieved to see the promises of coastal restoration and resilience investments at the federal level. Restoration and resilience programs can and should play a key role in President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and for several good reasons: These projects will improve community resilience, provide opportunities for job growth and increase economic vitality. Additionally, recent pieces of federal legislation – the Moving Forward Act; Shovel Ready Restoration Grants for Coastline and Fisheries Act of 2020; the Ocean Based Climate Solutions Act, and others – have included coastal and ocean restoration programs. To build on what is in place already, it is important that this funding be appropriated as a new grant program in order to enhance equity and address environmental justice needs. When Congress and the administration consider economic stimulus and infrastructure funding to restore the nation’s economy and address climate change, a $10 billion coastal and ocean restoration program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must be part of that package.

Within 18 months of receiving this funding, Maine could be addressing essential projects such as restoring Atlantic salmon habitat in the Dennys River watershed; reestablishing critical tidal exchange to upstream wetlands in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, or replacing the failing Old Ferry Road in Wiscasset, which routinely restricts tidal exchange and access to critical energy infrastructure. For the future of these important areas and others, we hope Congress turns the promises of coastal restoration and resilience funding into law.

With Gov. Mills’ coastal climate goals in her Climate Action Plan: Maine Won’t Wait, legislation recently enacted by the Maine House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Mills to direct state agencies to prepare for sea-level rise using the best available science and preparation at the local level from York to Washington counties, federal support is the missing piece of the planning puzzle for our state. Maine needs to better prepare for the changing climate, and we can’t do it alone.

Investing in coastal restoration and resilience funding will reap benefits for our economy, climate and communities. Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a program that will further these goals and help us continue to strengthen our communities’ preparation. We are counting on our federal delegation to push for this comprehensive funding package in Washington to protect Mainers who make their living and reside by the rising seas.

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