Posted on September 5, 2023
Oregon’s coast is increasingly shaped by the climate crisis. Sea level rise, more severe flooding, intensifying storms, and ocean acidification are threatening our coastal communities and their ocean-based economies.
Climate change is causing bluff erosion, receding shorelines, and impacts on shellfish populations. In the face of these challenges, we have tremendous opportunity to implement innovative solutions that will help Oregonians adapt and thrive in a changing climate. We are not standing by helplessly and watching climate change wreak havoc on our coasts.
Thanks to new coastal and ocean investments made possible by Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Oregon Legislature, we are now taking steps to address the ocean and coastal challenges facing our communities.
When the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) became law one year ago, it was the largest investment in climate change solutions in United States’ history. Now, those investments are making their way to Oregon’s ocean and coasts. Here’s how:
The first round of funds from the IRA is supporting $17.7 million in projects intended to make Oregon’s coastal communities and economies more resilient. That’s especially critical when sea levels are expected to rise up to a foot along the U.S. coastlines in the next 30 years, with damaging flooding expected to occur more than 10 times as often as they do today. IRA-funded projects in Oregon will restore floodplains, fish habitats, and estuaries and their cultural connections. For example, the Conservation of Cape Foulweather Headland will preserve undeveloped coastal property, providing opportunities for community resilience education and stewardship of important tribal lands and waters.
Ports and Shipping
Ensuring our coastal communities are climate ready is not Oregon’s only ocean-related climate opportunity. If shipping were a country, it would be the eighth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses globally. Port operations also impact nearby communities, often communities of color, that for too long have borne a disproportionate burden from toxic air pollution.
The good news is that the IRA provided $3 billion to the Environmental Protection Agency to finance projects that would reduce emissions at ports through electrification, the installation of solar panels, and the replacement of diesel trucks.
Beyond the IRA
Oregon’s South Coast also represents opportunity to further decarbonize our supply chain through the development of the Pacific Coast Intermodal Port (PCIP) Project, a deep-water container terminal at the Port of Coos Bay, where direct rail access could cut a cargo container’s emissions by up to 75%. This proposed all-electric intermodal terminal would help eliminate the need for ships to idle – spewing carbon into nearby communities – and reduce the number of carbon-emitting trucks on Oregon’s roadways.
I passed legislation this past session to provide a pathway to begin developing the PCIP, and the Oregon Legislative Assembly allocated $40 million to help bring this project to fruition. With the support of Congresswoman Val Hoyle, former Congressman Peter DeFazio session, and Senators Merkley and Wyden, we hope to leverage this into $5 billion of Federal and private investment to create thousands of good, clean jobs in a part of Oregon that has struggled.
The PCIP could serve as a model for helping us on the road to a decarbonized supply chain while still providing sustainable jobs in an increasingly globalized world. Decarbonizing our ports can help mitigate the effects of climate change, create more jobs, and advance environmental justice for port-adjacent communities.
Clean Energy Testing
South of Newport, PacWave will be the first utility-scale, grid-connected wave energy test site in the U.S. When completed, PacWave will offer wave energy developers the opportunity to try different technologies for harnessing the power of ocean waves and transmitting that energy to the local electrical grid. Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is managing the construction and operation of the more than $80 million facility
New ocean-climate investments in Oregon’s coast and communities like these demonstrate the kind of opportunities we have to fight and adapt to climate change. We owe our gratitude to ocean climate action champions in Congress–especially Rep. Bonamici, Rep. Hoyle, Senator Merkley, and Senator Wyden–who fought for many of these investments.
These are programs largely supported by the federal government in Washington DC. In the second part of this report, I will detail climate action being initiated by the state