Issue Brief: The Living Shorelines Act


ASLA supports legislation that protects coastal communities from risks to human health and safety, including damage to property, infrastructure, and ecosystems associated with climate change.


Over the last decade, climate-related events have become more severe and more frequent. Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Michael, Superstorm Sandy, and other storms have cost hundreds of billions of dollars in evacuation, clean up, and rebuilding efforts. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 16 separate weather events in the U.S. in 2017 cost $306.2 billion. In 2018, NOAA tracked 15 major storms and hurricanes, including the destructive hurricanes Florence and Michael. Communities within the path of these storms were destroyed by historic floods and winds, and manmade barriers created to protect communities from such disasters were breached and/or destroyed.

Additionally, in 2019 increased flooding and higher than normal temperatures caused water levels in the Great Lakes to rise to some of the highest levels in recorded history. This has caused flooding along the shorelines of all five lakes, devastating many businesses and property owners.

Using site planning and design that incorporates natural materials and nature-based systems, landscape architects play a critical role in helping coastal communities address the impacts of sea-level rise and increased storm surges, which are a result of our changing climate.

Bill Summary

On June 5, 2019, Senators Kamala Harris (CA) and Chris Murphy (CT) introduced S. 1730, the Living Shorelines Act, and Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ) also introduced the House version as H.R. 3115 (both Harris and Pallone introduced similar bills in the previous 115th Congress). This measure would promote the use of green or natural infrastructure to help protect coastal communities from the rising threats of climate change, including increased storm intensity and frequency, severe flooding, and sea-level rise.

Specifically, the measure would create the Living Shorelines Grant Program to assist states, localities, and nongovernmental organizations in developing and constructing infrastructure projects that mitigate the effects of shoreline erosion by incorporating natural and organic materials, such as wetland plants, aquatic vegetation, oysters and other shellfish, native grasses, shrubs, and trees. The grants require a match from the state or local entities equaling 50 per cent, however, low-income communities may petition for a reduced matching requirement.

Priority would be given to projects that are to be conducted in areas where a natural disaster has been declared in the previous 10-year period. Recipients of grants will be required to monitor, collect, and transmit data on living shoreline projects and may use grant funds for these purposes.

Recent Action

On December 10, 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Living Shorelines Act as part of H.R. 729, the Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act, by a vote of 262-151.

On June 5, 2019, Senators Kamala Harris (CA) and Chris Murphy (CT) introduced S. 1730, the Living Shorelines Act.


S. 1730, Senators Kamala Harris (CA) and Chris Murphy (CT), and cosponsors.

H.R. 3115, Representative Frank Pallone (NJ) and cosponsors.  


Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs