Overhead photo of costal area showing twisting maze of tributary rivers

$2.6 billion for coastal restoration in Inflation Reduction Act

By Rob Shane

Today, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law. Amongst the notable steps taken to curb emissions, transition to clean energy, and combat the negative impacts of climate change was a $2.6 billion appropriation to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to restore and protect coastal ecosystems.

This allocation will provide funding for contracts, grants, cooperative agreements, and technical assistance. Funding will remain available through September 2026. An additional $50 million will be appropriated to NOAA for competitive grants to fund climate research as it relates to weather, ocean, coastal, and atmospheric processes and conditions, and impacts to marine species and coastal habitats.

Exactly how this money will be distributed by NOAA remains to be seen, but RAE is encouraged by Congress and the Biden, Harris Administration’s commitment to coastal restoration. The newly appropriated $2.6+ billion comes just months after Congress designated roughly $3 billion to NOAA for coastal restoration in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Congress has made a strong commitment to address climate change and invest in coastal restoration and ecosystem recovery with these new funding streams” said Daniel Hayden, President and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries. “We look forward to working with NOAA, our member groups, and our partners to ensure that the more than $5 billion in new funding goes directly towards protecting coastal communities from storms, conserving ecosystems that provide vital habitat for fish and wildlife, and restoring wetlands which naturally store large amounts of carbon.”

Coastal ecosystems, such as salt marshes and wetlands, are capable of capturing and storing carbon at 10x the efficiency of mature tropical forests – a science known as blue carbon. In addition to their climate benefits, estuary regions are also home to 40% of the U.S. population and contribute 47% of the U.S. gross domestic product, according to a 2021 RAE Report. Protecting and restoring these pivotal ecosystems will have lasting benefits for all Americans, but particularly those from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities, who stand to suffer the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

In addition to the funding mentioned above, the IRA also includes $60 billion for environmental justice priorities, including funding for clean transportation and energy systems in frontline communities.

While we are hesitant about certain provisions in the legislation, such as mandatory oil and gas leases off the coasts, RAE is enthusiastic about the overwhelming benefits to our climate and continued investments by Congress in our coast.

Rob Shane is the Communications Manager for Restore America’s Estuaries. He is based in Alexandria, Virginia.