Congress Passes Carper, Coons, Blunt Rochester Bill to Fix Coastal Barrier Resources Map Affecting North Bethany Beach Homeowners

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Delaware’s Congressional Delegation, U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.), celebrated the passage of the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2018, which included legislation they led in the House and Senate that adjusts the boundary maps under the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) for Delaware’s North Bethany Beach map unit. The Strengthening Coastal Communities Act also adjusts maps in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina, helping coastal homeowners qualify for disaster aid and setting aside thousands of acres for wildlife conservation.

Specifically, the legislation will implement a recommendation made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) following its discovery during a recent digital mapping pilot project that a portion of the North Bethany Beach unit, which encompasses the South Shore Marina development, was included by mistake when the map was created in 1990. This change to the map may only be made through Congressional action.

“The Coastal Barrier Resources Act saves taxpayers money, keeps people and their property out of harm’s way and conserves natural resources by restricting most federal expenditures and financial assistance for new construction on barrier islands. But a mistake made years ago has prevented South Shore Marina homeowners from accessing subsidized flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP),” said Senator Carper, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee. “This bill fixes that mistake and allows Delaware homeowners access to the National Flood Insurance Program.”

“This common-sense fix will help protect both Delaware homeowners and our natural resources,” said Senator Coons. “Severe storms will continue to threaten our coast, and it is important for Congress to make these updates as our mapping technology improves. I am pleased that we were able to advance legislation that ensures Delaware homeowners can access the federal flood insurance program.”

“Families along our coastline deserve the peace of mind that when disaster strikes, they will have the tools and resources at their disposal to rebuild their homes and pick up the pieces in the aftermath. Thanks to these critical updates to the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, the South Shore Marina Community will finally have access to those federal dollars,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “Our legislation makes technical corrections that have a big impact in improving the lives of coastal communities and protecting Delaware’s invaluable natural resources and wildlife. I am proud to have joined Senator Carper and Senator Coons in working to get this passed, and I look forward to the Administration swiftly signing this bill into law.”

In November 2016, FWS sent a report to Congress that included the results of the mapping pilot project, which was required by the 2006 Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act. Delaware was part of the pilot project, and the report contains the recommendation for this map change.

Enacted in 1982, the CBRA is a map-based law that recognizes that certain actions and programs of the federal government subsidize and thus encourage development on coastal barriers. However, coastal building, if done in the wrong places, contributes to the loss of natural resources and threatens human life, health and property. The CBRA system currently contains 859 geographic units in 23 U.S. states and territories along the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico coasts.  The CBRA units are depicted on a set of maps that is maintained by the Secretary of the Interior through FWS.

While CBRA does not prohibit or regulate development, it removes the federal incentives to build on these undeveloped, unstable and environmentally sensitive areas. As it reviewed digital mapping results, FWS consulted South Bethany Beach area property owners, as well as the state government, who all concur with the map change. 

Now that both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House have passed the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act, the bill is headed to the President for his signature.