Restoring Resilient Reefs Act

On behalf of the nearly 6.8 million people, seven counties, and 122 municipalities of Southeast Florida which are home to the Florida’s Coral Reef – the only coral reef system in the continental United States – we write today in support of H.R. 160, the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act (RRRA), introduced in the House by Representative Darren Soto in a bipartisan effort with Representatives Case, Radewagen, Mast, Gonzalez-Colon, and Plaskett. The companion legislation (S.46) has been introduced similarly in a bipartisan effort by Senators Rubio, Scott (FL), Hirono, and Schatz. The legislation is supported by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, among others.

The membership of the South Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils consist of county and municipal elected officials, gubernatorial appointees, and ex-officio members from the Florida of Department Economic Opportunity, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Transportation, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (TCRPC), and the South Florida Water Management District. The South Florida Regional Planning Council represents Monroe, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties. The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council represents Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties. The Councils support the region’s elected leaders and public, private, and nonprofit stakeholders through regional, collaborative planning and the development and implementation of programs and strategies shaping a better future for Southeast Florida.

As you know, coral reefs in the United States provide many benefits, including biodiversity, coastal protection, improved fisheries, medicine, and critical tourism and recreational opportunities. Florida’s Coral Reef runs parallel to our coastline from Monroe County north to Martin County. It is a valuable national resource that protects our shores and beaches by reducing wave energy from storms and hurricanes while providing flood protection valued at over $675 million per year and over $1 billion during extreme weather events. Florida’s Coral Reef ecosystem provides vital marine habitat for over 6,000 species, including species found nowhere else on earth. Florida’s Coral Reef ecosystem is essential to the state’s commercial fishing and tourism industries, providing over 71,000 jobs within the region, and generating more than $6 billion in positive impact annually.

Unfortunately, the Florida’s Coral Reef is suffering from a tremendous disease outbreak that threatens its survival, with 90 percent of the reef impacted. The Restoring Resilient Reefs Act will modernize the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 and direct a large share of federal funding directly to states and impacted communities so that management priorities and conservation and restoration activities are locally driven; enhance collaboration and provision of technical assistance and expertise to support state and local initiatives; sustain critical research and create opportunities for new partnerships; reform reporting, measurement, and analysis procedures to increase the efficacy of coral reef interventions; and create new avenues for the provision of emergency funds to ensure rapid, effective responses to coral reef emergencies.

In closing, the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act is the right bill to revive and support thriving coral reef ecosystems across the U.S.  We strongly support the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act (RRRA) (H.R. 160 / S. 46), as introduced by Congressmen Soto and Case, as an essential and overdue update to the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 that will meaningfully enhance the protection of these unique ecosystems that underpin significant cultural, social, and economic interests within the United States.   Please support this legislation as a matter of urgency.  In Southeast Florida, Florida’s Coral Reef really can’t wait.