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Statement on Signing the Coastal Barrier Resources Act

October 18, 1982

I am proud to sign into law today S. 1018, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. This legislation will enhance both wise natural resource conservation and fiscal responsibility. It will save American taxpayers millions of dollars while, at the same time, taking a major step forward in the conservation of our magnificent coastal resources. S. 1018 is precisely the sort of imaginative environmental legislation this administration encourages -- legislation that solves real problems in the stewardship of our natural resources.

S. 1018 will prohibit new Federal expenditures and financial assistance on approximately 700 miles of undeveloped coastal barriers on the Atlantic and gulf coasts of the United States. It will not prohibit a property owner from building on his property, and it will not impose federally mandated duties on State or local governments. Instead, it simply adopts the sensible approach that risk associated with new private development in these sensitive areas should be borne by the private sector, not underwritten by the American taxpayer.

In the last 6 years alone, the Federal Government has spent more than $800 million to aid development and redevelopment of coastal barriers. A recent study estimates that the cost of Federal subsidies assisting initial construction in these areas averages more than $25,000 per acre. These are also recurring costs: When the next storm or hurricane strikes, the Federal Government will again be expected to help replace the bridges and roads, utilities and buildings. In terms of replacement costs, the estimated Federal subsidies are more than $53,000 for each developed acre. By signing S. 1018 into law today, this administration is acting to halt this subsidy spiral.

In addition, we will stop the flow of Federal dollars that have helped to encourage development that otherwise would not be economical. The difficult task of balancing competing uses of resources is best performed by the market, free of Federal subsidies.

It is rare that a bill enjoys the widespread support that S. 1018 has received. It is supported by the American Red Cross, the National Taxpayers Union, the coastal states organization, all of the major environmental and conservation organizations, and was enacted by the Congress with only four dissenting votes. This is a tribute to the commonsense philosophy of the legislation and the great leadership of its sponsors, Senator John Chafee and Congressman Tom Evans. I also want to thank the many others, such as Senators Strom Thurmond and Bob Stafford, who have made this law possible. My special thanks to Congressman John Breaux, who worked into the early morning hours on the day of recess to ensure final passage.

I want also to commend Secretary of the Interior Jim Watt for his efforts with regard to coastal barriers. An intensive, year-long study conducted at the Department of the Interior to identify undeveloped coastal barriers provided a firm foundation for this bill.

The administration will be taking immediate steps to implement this important legislation. The Coastal Barrier Resources Act meets a national problem with less Federal involvement, not more. This administration is committed to applying the imagination and common sense demonstrated by this legislation to the resolution of other important national environmental concerns. With enactment of this landmark legislation, the Nation takes a major step foward on the road to restoring a sound fiscal and environmental balance to the programs of the Federal Government.

Note: As enacted, S. 1018 is Public Law 97 - 348, approved October 18.