Our resilient ocean can help revitalize our economy
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Our ocean is vulnerable, just as we are in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. And like us, it is also resilient.

As we recognize this World Oceans Day, we understand that a healthy ocean is a necessity. Our ocean sustains life. Our economic well-being is tied to a clean ocean for fishing, tourism and other industries. For years, the ocean has literally “taken the heat” for us and mitigated the effects of rising global temperatures. The ocean absorbs human-caused pollution, making it acidic and less habitable to species of all sorts. We must be mindful not to exact any more damage. In fact, in the wake of an unprecedented economic and health crisis, our healthy ocean can provide answers to how we rebuild our economy. We must do so in a more sustainable and resilient way that protects our planet and supports good-paying jobs.

Healthy coastal and marine habitats are vital economic engines. Coastal communities, including Tampa Bay and the Oregon coast, contribute $7.6 trillion to the U.S. economy annually. The blue economy – the part of our economy that directly depends on our ocean – drives approximately 149,000 businesses in our country that employ more than 3 million people. But our coastal communities are struggling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Until visitors can safely return and support the economic prosperity of our coastal communities through tourism, recreation and support for our fisheries, we need to throw them a lifeline. Restoration and resilience projects can rapidly provide economic and ecological benefits for coastal communities.

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Following the economic downturn in 2009, Congress provided the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with $167 million for coastal restoration projects. This fruitful investment supported 125 projects that restored more than 25,584 acres of coastal habitat, improved 677 miles of streams of fish habitat, removed more than 433,397 tons of debris from coastal habitats, and created more than 2,280 jobs. Ten years later, our communities need another investment that addresses the damage to our coasts.

As Congress develops the next recovery package for the coronavirus pandemic, with an eye to the efficient use of tax dollars in a climate emergency too, we are calling for an investment of at least $10 billion in coastal restoration and resilience projects to create much-needed jobs for our communities. Natural infrastructure projects can protect coastal communities from sea level rise, coastal storms and flooding. Healthy wetlands remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it for centuries to millennia in stems, branches, leaves, roots and soils. Coastal restoration and resilience projects can help protect or recover endangered species and expedite the removal of the massive amounts of plastic and debris that pollute our ocean and shores.

Last year, we accompanied Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation Pelosi: Trump 'himself is a hoax' MORE (D-Calif.) to Madrid for the annual UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties that was known as the Blue COP because it focused on ocean-centric climate solutions. We stood with world leaders who are committed to climate action and discussed the importance of conserving at least 30 percent of the ocean by 2030. We must do everything we can to protect and preserve our planet’s greatest natural resources.

Over the last year, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis has been developing a bold, science-based climate action plan to protect people and our planet. It will serve as a roadmap for Congress to take action. As elected officials who represent coastal districts, we know that natural climate solutions, including coastal restoration and protection, must play a role in our plan to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis. We will work with our colleagues to start advancing these recommendations in the coming months.

When we are longing for solace during this pandemic, the ocean sustains and connects us. By investing in coastal restoration and resilience projects, we can help both the ocean and our communities recover from the crises at hand.

Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 House Dems to offer up road map to solve the climate crisis MORE is chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciOur resilient ocean can help revitalize our economy We need to prevent food waste at school Pelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention MORE is a member of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.