By Michayla Savitt, Public News Service/Florida
Environmental groups are urging federal lawmakers to allocate $10 billion in the upcoming infrastructure package for coastal restoration projects to prevent flooding and bolster the economy.
The move would have a big impact on Florida, where tidal flooding has increased by 352% since 2000.
More than 100 groups have signed a letter in support of funding for coastal projects in the American Jobs Plan.
Jean Flemma, director of the Ocean Defense Initiative and co-founder of the Urban Ocean, noted Florida is an area that needs these projects to start now.
"Florida is 'ground zero' for sea-level rise, and storms that are increasing in intensity and severity," Flemma stated. "Implementing coastal-restoration projects that provide that natural buffer against storms and rising seas will be incredibly important."
A University of California-Santa Cruz report found Florida mangroves prevented $1.5 billion worth of flood damage during Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Flemma pointed out 18 of the 34 coastal states have identified more than $6 billion worth of projects they would undertake if they had the funding.
Projects would also create jobs in a wide range of industries, Flemma explained.
"Everything from engineers, to work in shoreline stabilization, marine debris removal, even landscape architects, and people that are going to actually go in and do the work, planting seagrass or restoring a wetland," Flemma outlined.
Coastal-restoration projects backed by stimulus money created around 15 jobs for every million dollars of investment, according to a 2017 analysis from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Nicolas Lama, youth leadership council member for EarthEcho International, said it is vital to bolster coastal resilience efforts in Florida, not only to create jobs, but to mitigate climate change.
"The reality of the climate crisis in our state is, it's not some far away issue, it's one that Congress needs to take action on now," Lama asserted. "We stand to lose so much from climate change here in Florida. And young Floridians like myself are worried about the future of our state."
According to NOAA, there were a record-breaking 30 named storms in the 2020 hurricane season, 14 of which became hurricanes.
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