It’s summer, which means our nation’s beach economy is cranking at full capacity. From the seaside towns of Maine to the white sand beaches of Hawaii, millions of people are flocking to the coast to enjoy the sunshine, sea breezes, and salt water. In the process, they’re spending their hard-earned cash at local businesses, helping to boost our country’s coastal tourism and recreation industry valued at over $100 billion.
August is also when the United States Congress takes a vacation. And when they return to Washington D.C. in a few weeks they may decide to sabotage this beach tourism economy. Congress is scheduled to finalize the federal government’s 2018 budget in September, and coastal management programs that make tourism dollars wash onto our shores are on the chopping block.
For those of you that don’t follow the federal budget process closely (okay, probably everyone), our leaders in Washington D.C. have proposed massive cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The President and House of Representatives, in particular, have threatened to strip core funding for programs that help keep our coasts clean, healthy, and accessible.
Here’s just a partial list of coastal management programs that are threatened by major budget cuts or could be eliminated altogether:
-NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management program which works with states, tribes, and communities to manage our nation’s coastlines.
-EPA’s BEACH Grants program which provides funding for states to monitor water quality at over 4,000 of our nation’s most popular beaches.
-The Sea Grant program which conducts research to improve our understanding of the marine environment and adjacent communities.
-NOAA’s Marine Debris program that helps tackle plastic pollution through research, education, and cleanup efforts.
-NOAA’s Coastal Resilience program, which helps states plan for rising sea levels and new development.
Most beachgoers reasonably assume our government will make sure our coasts are managed responsibly and safe for activities like beach going, swimming and surfing. Of course, it’s only when these protections are lost that we realize it’s too late. That’s why advocates are scrambling to make sure that these programs receive the critical funding they need for next year and beyond.
The good news is that the Senate’s version of the spending bill largely protects coastal management programs that the Trump administration and the House are seeking to gut. When lawmakers return from August recess, they will begin negotiating a compromise bill to send to the President’s desk. This gives us an opportunity to fight to get these priorities funded.
If you care about the coast, please ask your representatives in the Senate and House to support critical funding for NOAA and EPA so that coastal management will receive the support it needs. Your beach, your health and even the jobs of millions of Americans could depend on it.