House Committee Backs Bill for California Beach Protection

WASHINGTON (CN) — A resolution to expand protective areas in the Santa Monica mountains and Los Angeles coast areas was one of three bills brought to the House floor Wednesday with unanimous and favorable support.

House Resolution 1487 looks to begin a study into preventative measures that will protect beaches and coastal waterways in the area. The study, to be directed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, will encompass the majority of the Santa Monica Bay, Baldwin Hills, Ballona Creek and the Port of Los Angeles.

The bill also will create a zone to be designated as the Los Angeles Coast National Recreation Area, plus a continuous trail system between the studied locations, focused on protecting flora and fauna in the area.

The House Natural Resources Committee first took up House Resolution 1487 in March.

Not every bill before the committee was given unanimous support, however. House Resolution 925, which was eventually given a favorable recommendation after a 26-9 vote Wednesday, also was introduced late and first brought to lawmakers in July.

The bill looks to extend federal funding of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act by $60 million annually between 2020 and 2024. The act authorizes use of the funds for coastal restoration and protection plans and has protected nearly 30 million acres since its adoption.

Congressman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the ranking Republican member, took issue with the committee’s backlog of bills at Wednesday’s markup. Bishop said he would not vote yes on the resolution unless the committee addressed the backlog of bills it had before it. He also said his “no” vote would be a symbolic one, and was not a reflection on his opinion of the legislation.

Bishop also said the committee should not be expanding the amount of federally protected lands until it passed legislation to maintain areas currently under federal oversight.

“Should it be reauthorized? Of course, it should. Is this reauthorization OK? Yes, it is,” Bishop said. “In July we passed it out. It has yet to be referred to the House. The committee is still sitting on this particular piece of legislation. This bill should be going by suspension. … There is no logical reason why not to do this particular bill and do it now.”

Other Republican members to voice support of Bishop’s position included Paul Gosar of Arizona. He voiced concern throughout the markup over many of the proposed bills’ fiscal responsibility. The 925 resolution needs additional reforms to avoid duplicity and buildups in bureaucracy and would benefit from additional safeguards to the seizure of private property, Gosar said.

“Our current national debt exceeds $22 trillion, Mister Chairman,” Gosar said. “They’re essentially trying to double the appropriations for this program through this bill; we’re out of money. I oppose this legislation as a result, even though I have been a stalwart supporter of it in the past.”

The committee sent all 10 bills before members to the House floor Wednesday, including H.R. 729 which would allow coastal, tribal communities to apply for grant funding to protect their villages; H.R. 1472, which looks to rename the Homestead National Monument of America; H.R. 1492, which modifies the maximum inclusion of acreage for the Yucca House National Monument; and H.R. 2185, which includes the District of Columbia in the applicable jurisdictions to receive federal funding through the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. All bills were sent to the house floor with a favorable recommendation.

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