Ahead of Infrastructure Week, Senior EPW Democrats Highlight Unique Challenges Coastal Communities Face
May 11 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Carper, (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), EPW member and Co-Chair of the Senate Oceans Caucus, held a public roundtable highlighting the current state of coastal infrastructure across the country. The senators were joined by experts from Rhode Island and Delaware to examine the unique challenges changing environmental conditions pose to coastal communities in their states and others, and to discuss the federal government’s role in assisting states, tribes and localities in meeting coastal infrastructure needs.
“In Delaware, we have already rebuilt dunes and replenished beaches in an attempt to push the rising seas back from our coastal communities,” said Senator Carper. “Without smart, forward-looking investments in our country’s infrastructure – both built infrastructure like seawalls and levees, and natural infrastructure such as marshes and wetlands – we will continue to see flooded streets, retreating coastlines and communities that need to be rebuilt after every storm. Coastal states especially understand that resiliency projects are critical, but we also know that they only address the symptoms of a much larger issue – global climate change. Ultimately, we need to work together to tackle the root causes of climate change if we want to protect vulnerable coastal communities in Delaware, Rhode Island and around the world. I thank my colleague Senator Whitehouse for his years of work on this issue and all our witnesses here today. A special thank you to Tony Pratt for highlighting the lessons we’ve learned in Delaware and how we’ve managed to create new opportunities for our state as a result. Today’s discussion will be incredibly helpful as we examine infrastructure priorities this Congress.”
“America’s infrastructure needs upgrades across the board,” said Senator Whitehouse. “That’s especially true along our coasts, where climate change poses serious threats to coastal communities, like sea level rise and more severe storms. As we heard today from our Coastal Resources Management Council’s Director, Grover Fugate, Rhode Island is preparing for up to 12 feet of sea level rise. For the sake of our economy and way of life, we need to support the work highlighted today by Jeff Diehl, of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, and invest in coastal infrastructure that meets today’s standards and can withstand the major changes experts like Grover predict. Thank you to Senator Carper and everyone who took part in today’s important discussion. I look forward to using what we discussed to help come up with bipartisan infrastructure legislation.”
Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the state of U.S. infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in their annual Infrastructure Report Card. Our troubled infrastructure, including roads and highways and drinking and wastewater systems, is in particular peril along America’s coasts. In these areas, rising seas, storm surge, and consequences of extreme weather events, can often overwhelm and degrade local infrastructure.
In February, the Environment and Public Works Committee held its first legislative hearing of the 115th Congress to discuss the urgent need to modernize our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. During that hearing, both Senators Carper and Whitehouse discussed the bipartisan consensus to make smart investments in infrastructure and the growing threat climate change posed to infrastructure in their coastal states.
The Senators were joined by Grover Fugate, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council; Jeffrey Diehl, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank; and Tony Pratt, President of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association, and Administrator of the Shoreline and Waterway Management Section within the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.