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Four Coastal Resilience Budget Priorities the State Legislature Should Protect in the 2024-2025 Budget

Last update: May 29

In January, the Newsom administration released a 2024-2025 budget proposal that cuts coastal resilience funding more than any other package — cuts to the coast weigh in at 49%. For comparison, the climate budget overall was cut about 7%. As of the last proposal from the State Legislature very little of this funding has been restored.

The current 2024-2025 budget devastates coastal funding.

If approved as-is, the budget will take back $392 million from the State Coastal Conservancy and $64.6 million from the Ocean Protection Council which would otherwise be used to help the state plan for and mitigate sea level rise. Additionally, $75 million is being cut from the State Parks Outdoor Equity Grant Program and nearly $7 million from the Department of Parks and Recreation for sea level rise adaptation - with State Parks managing 128 coastal parks representing about a quarter of the State's coastline.

Our coastline has been slammed by sea level rise-related flooding for two years in a row and impacts are only going to get worse. The smashing of Capitola’s pier due to an atmospheric river in 2023 and the repeated closing of the coastal railroad in San Clemente due to erosion over the past three years are both symbolic of the state’s increasing vulnerabilities to rising seas. 

With sea levels expected to continue to rise close to another vertical foot by 2050, we simply can’t afford to remain unprepared for worsening erosion and flood risks.

California’s most recent Climate Assessment reported that “$17.9 billion worth of residential and commercial buildings could be inundated statewide by sea level rise by 2050, with a projected 50 cm (~20 in) of sea level rise. A 100-year coastal flood, on top of this level of sea level rise, would almost double these costs.”

Unchecked sea level rise will tear at infrastructure, safety and budgets of coastal communities and continue to impact all Californians who visit the beach because without progressive action, our beaches will drown from coastal squeeze (caused by the sea marching towards development.)

The Legislature has roughly until May to counter the Governor’s proposal with a budget that better supports our coastline.

With the State in a major budget deficit due to tax revenue shortfalls, Surfrider understands that significant cuts are going to get made one way or another. In an effort to prioritize only the most necessary and immediate needs for the coast, we recommend the Legislature seek to sustain four types of projects:

  1. Projects that can receive federal matching dollars. Historic amounts of funding are available for coastal projects including living shorelines via the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. The state should support projects that will be able to capitalize on these timely federal allocations.

  2. Projects that are started but incomplete. The State Coastal Conservancy currently oversees certain projects such as wetlands restoration projects where major project components (ie purchase, permitting, planning, etc) have already finished. Leaving these projects partially complete raises their cost of completion later (partly due to inflation), and essentially wastes state money by failing to leverage what has already been spent.

  3. Projects that center equity and justice priorities. The California Natural Resources Agency, the State Legislature and Governor Newsom have all made strong commitments towards prioritizing equity and justice in California. Projects with equity and justice as a primary focus should continue to receive funding. 

  4. Nature-based projects that fulfill multiple state priorities at once. Such projects are more cost effective than other cumulative solutions that will be required to address multiple issues. Living shorelines for instance can be highly cost effective — the Cardiff Living Shorelines project protects Highway 1 and businesses in San Diego from flooding while also restoring habitat and facilitating coastal recreation.

Cutting the coastal resilience budget so disproportionately and so aggressively should make coastal advocates angry and we should fight to get these four priorities funded.

Investing in coastal resilience is the only way to save our beaches. Two thirds of coastal communities have yet to fully study and approve plans to prepare for sea level rise, and there are so many valuable projects like wetlands, living shorelines, low cost accommodations, beach restoration and access trails that would dramatically enhance the protection, health and enjoyment of our coastline if they could be funded.

Your chapter or organization can help us ask the State Legislature to restore the State’s Coastal resilience funding by signing onto our letter here. If you’d like to get involved by writing letters or leveraging social media, contact Laura Walsh 

Photo by Nash Howe