The House and Senate have passed the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, which includes significant coastal legislation, including the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 and a package of ocean legislation including authorization of the Regional Ocean Partnerships and reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act.

CSO commends Congress for keeping WRDA approved on a biennial basis. The 2022 WRDA is important and robust legislation that elevates coastal restoration and protection to a core mission are of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). WRDA increases capacity for USACE to address coastal enhancement, restoration, and resilience needs. The legislation provides enhanced authorities for shoreline protection and restoration, supports continued advancement of the use of natural and nature-based infrastructure including the beneficial use of dredge material, and authorizes projects to be build back more resilient after natural disasters. The legislation also addresses the needs of disadvantaged communities, removes barriers to implementing studies and projects, and increases flexibility for local partners. These advancements under the 2022 WRDA provide important tools for coastal communities facing emerging issues including flooding and erosion caused by sea level rise, increased coastal storm frequency, and other coastal hazards that threaten the lives and livelihoods.

The inclusion of the authorization of the Regional Ocean Partnerships (ROPs) under the NDAA advances efforts to address shared coastal and ocean priorities on a regional scale. This legislation formally designates the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, the West Coast Ocean Alliance, and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance as ROPs and creates a mechanism for the designation of additional partnerships in the future. These ROPs play an important role in enhancing collaboration across state lines on shared regional priorities, complementing and coordinating work being done by the existing state Coastal Zone Management Programs.

The inclusion in the NDAA of the reauthorization of the Coral Reef Conservation Act (CRCA) provides enhanced authorities, new tools, and increased authorizations to protect and restore our nation’s coral reefs. Coral reefs are critical resources for seven U.S. states and territories, providing critical habitats that are both culturally significant and economically valuable. Increased tools and resources for coral reef protection and restoration supports the overall management of the coasts in these states and territories.

The full legislation can be found here. WRDA 2022 starts on page 3093. Regional Ocean Partnerships starts on page 3783. Coral Reef Conservation starts on page 3706.