Legislative / Storms & Hurricanes

URGENT: House of Representatives Debating Hurricane Sandy Bill Now

We all know how badly Connecticut was impacted by Hurricane Sandy. We can see the effects of Sandy along our shoreline as we try to rebuild yet again after the third major storm hit the state in a little over a year.

Remains of two Chalker Beach cottages burned to the ground.

Remains of two Chalker Beach cottages burned to the ground.

In December, the U.S. Senate passed the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Assistance Supplemental bill that would provide $60.4 billion in aid to areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, including Connecticut., for flood mitigation, infrastructure improvements and other relief efforts.

This morning, the House of Representatives will begin consideration of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, a companion to the Senate bill, critical legislation to help provide relief to the many states and communities that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Over 92 amendments were filed on this bill- we wanted to bring three amendments to your attention- one that we support and two that we strongly oppose.

SUPPORT

Frelinghuysen (NJ) Amendment #2: Provides an additional $33.677 billion in total spending to cover the current and anticipated needs of those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

This amendment would help to protect our natural systems to ensure resiliency along the coastline.

OPPOSE

Fleming (LA) Amendment #49: Cuts $9.8M from the Fish & Wildlife Service for rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in the Steward McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut.

We are extremely concerned about this amendment as it would directly hit Connecticut. The Stewart McKinney National Wildlife Refuge sustained a significant amount of damage to important state and federally listed species during Hurricane Sandy.  The Stewart McKinney National Wildlife Refuge protects some of the most important habitat areas for birds and other wildlife in the Long Island Sound Ecosystem and these funds are necessary for the restoration of habitats and proper operations of this important Refuge.

Aerial view of marsh at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in aftermath of storm Sandy. Credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS

It is estimated that Hurricane Sandy repair costs to the Stewart McKinney National Wildlife Refuge will cost millions of dollars. The $9.8M included in the bill for repairing the damage in the refuge is critical; if it is removed from the bill, the Stewart McKinney National Wildlife Refuge may not be able to be fixed for the state and federally listed species who reside in the refuge and the residents who enjoy visiting it.

OPPOSE

Flores (TX) Amendment #63: Strikes $150,000,000 for Regional Ocean Partnership grants.

Regional Ocean Partnership grants are voluntary, state-led forums that identify ocean and coastal priorities and respond to issues that are relevant to the region.  ROPs identify actions to address these priorities and effectively respond to coastal and ocean issues on regional scales.

According to Restore America’s Estuaries, by striking this funding, the Flores Amendment eliminates funding for coastal restoration and waterway recovery activities that will rebuild the natural infrastructure to better withstand future disasters and protect live and livelihoods. Specific activities and projects which would be cut by this amendment include: coastal habitat restoration designed to better protect vulnerable coastal communities and other coastal mitigation planning by states and local governments to help address coastal vulnerability. Over $300 million in restoration projects have been identified by local organizations in the region as necessary recovery and mitigation projects.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The passage of the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 is critical in order to provide aid to those states and communities who are trying to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy. However, passage of the bill with the Fleming and Flores amendments will prevent us from being able to one of Connecticut’s critical  habitat areas and from rebuilding our coastline to better withstand future storms.

We are asking you to call Speaker of the House John Boehner (202-225-0600), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (202-225-4965), and other Members of Congress around the country and urge them to vote in support of the Frelinghuysen Amendment #2 and to vote in opposition to Fleming Amendment #49 and Flores Amendment #63.

You can find specific phone numbers here or call the general House of Representatives switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Posted by Rebecca Kaplan, director of communications for CFE/Save the Sound

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