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Progress for our Ocean and Coasts in the 2023 Federal Budget!

Surfrider applauds Congress for increasing funding for ocean, coastal and clean water water programs, including several across EPA and NOAA. However more work is needed for the 2024 budget and beyond to ensure our federal agencies receive the support they need.

Late 2022, after months of negotiations, Congress avoided a government shutdown by passing a $1.7 trillion budget for the 2023 fiscal year. Since the fiscal year technically started last October, our federal government was operating on a “continuing resolution” for nearly three months while Congress reached an agreement on the budget.

Surfrider’s network of volunteers and ocean stewards across the country advocated for federal funding for our ocean and coasts. From meeting with nearly 150 congressional offices during the 2022 Coastal Recreation Hill Day, to submitting thousands of signatures in support of elevated funding levels to ocean and clean water programs, to collaborating with coalition partners at the local and national levels, we made it clear that clean water and ocean protection needed to be federal priorities. Specific programs that help protect clean water and healthy beaches are described below.

Ocean, Coasts & Climate

The federal budget for 2023 includes key increases for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the lead federal agency responsible for managing our nation’s ocean and coasts, as well monitoring weather and climate. NOAA programs that will benefit include coastal zone management, coastal resilience, national estuarine reserves, and Sea Grant. Such funding increases will help the agency meet its mandate to protect and steward our nation’s outstanding marine and coastal resources.

Specific increases to NOAA programs in the 2023 federal budget include:

  • Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants are funded at $81.5 million, $2.5 million above the fiscal year 2022 enacted level

  • The National Marine Sanctuaries program is funded at $68 million, an increase of $7 million

  • The Sea Grant program is funded at $80 million, $4 million above the fiscal year 2022 enacted level

  • The National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRS) program is funded at $32.5 million, an increase of $2.8 million; 

While these budget increases to NOAA are both welcome and necessary, the agency remains under-resourced to deliver on its management responsibilities. The combined effects of climate change, coastal development, pollution, fishing and energy projects are pushing our ocean and coastal resources to the brink. Accordingly, Surfrider will continue to advocate for additional funding for NOAA to carry out its legal mandates. In particular, we will advocate for additional funding for the National Marine Sanctuary program in 2024 to support management plan updates and the designation of new sanctuaries.   

Throughout 2023, Surfrider will monitor budget implementation and ensure funds go toward nature-based solutions projects that will improve coastal resiliency and help communities respond to climate change impacts and sea level rise. 

Clean Water

Critical Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water programs also received important increases in the FY 2023 federal budget. The EPA is responsible for enforcing environmental laws, and ensuring clean air and water for human health and the environment. While the agency has many programs to advance this work, key programs to ensure clean water at the beach include the BEACH Act Program- which funds beach water testing programs that protect public health in all coastal states and the Great Lakes, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund- which helps states pay for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure improvement projects to stop sewage pollution at the source, and the Border Water Infrastructure Program- which funds wastewater infrastructure upgrades to reduce binational border water pollution. 

Specific increases to EPA programs in the 2023 federal budget include:

  • BEACH Act Grant Program is funded at $10.619 million, an increase of $500,000. Surfrider will continue to advocate for this program to be funded closer to it’s authorized level of $30 million to truly help fill the gaps of water testing programs and ensure more equitable coverage of the coastline.

  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund is funded at $1.638 billion, an increase of $35,000. While this increase is rather small, this program received additional 2023 funding through the 2022 Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, outside of this approproations package.

  • Mexico/US Border Water Infrastructure Grant Program (BWIP) is funded at $36.386 million, an increase of $4.386 million from the 2022 enacted level.  This increase indicates that our leaders have heard the call from local community members and water advocates to address the public health crisis at our border.  We are encouraged by this upward trend in BWIP funding which will help pay for much needed border infrastructure projects in the Tijuana River Watershed and along the Mexico-US border. Surfrider will continue to advocate for the all of the funding necessary to solve the infrastructure problems in this region so communities on both side of the border no longer have to deal with the environmental degradation, beach closures and illnessess caused by sewage pollution.