Statement by Senator John H. Chafee
Committee of Environment and Public Works
Hearing on S. 2470, a bill relating to Unit FL-35 of the Coastal Barrier Resources System
Tuesday, September 22, 1998

Good Morning. The purpose of today's hearing is to receive testimony on the removal of Pumpkin Key from coastal barrier Unit FL-35. Pumpkin Key is a 25 acre island off the coast of North Key Largo, Florida.

Prior to talking about Pumpkin Key, it might be useful to briefly describe the coastal barrier system. Congress enacted the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (CBRA) in 1982 to address financial and ecological problems associated with the development of coastal barriers. Undeveloped coastal areas along the eastern seaboard were included in the System. Due to CBRA's success Congress passed the Coastal Barrier Improvement Act in 1990. The 1990 Act expanded the definition of coastal barrier, and added to the System areas in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Great Lakes and additional areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

CBRA prohibits Federal flood insurance and other financial assistance for development of areas identified within the System. This prohibition deters development in coastal barriers, which serves three very worthwhile purposes: it promotes public safety by discouraging construction in areas prone to severe weather conditions; it preserves valuable natural resources; and it promotes fiscal responsibility by avoiding Federal subsidies and insurance of inherently risky developments. Let me stress this last point: CBRA gets the Federal government out of the business of subsidizing high-risk development. Nothing in CBRA prevents property owners from doing what they want on their own land; it only provides that they do so at their own financial risk.

Today we will be hearing from Gerry Jackson, Assistant Director for Ecological Services for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We will also be hearing from Jackie Savitz, Executive Director of Coast Alliance, Thomas Hayward, President of Terra Cotta Realty and Ralph DeGennaro.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.