Home > Coming Events, New York > New York State Begins Planning for Sea Level Rise Major changes to development planning an

New York State Begins Planning for Sea Level Rise Major changes to development planning an

February 11, 2011

Major changes to development planning and conservation along coastlines from the tip of Long Island all way up the Hudson River Valley are recommended

RISING TIDE: Rising sea levels will not just affect New York City but communities from Long Island all the way up the Hudson River in New York State. Image: Photo by aturkus, courtesy Flickr

NEW YORK — New York state is beginning to take the threat of sea level rise attributed to climate change seriously as a new government prepares to settle in next year.

Starting Monday, state officials in Albany will gather with members of the public to discuss a recently released 93-page report that recommends major changes to development planning and conservation along coastlines from the tip of Long Island all way up the Hudson River Valley.

Any reforms to come from the process, starting next week, would affect about 62 percent of New York state’s population, the proportion estimated to reside now in areas that could be hard hit as rising land and ocean temperatures raise average sea levels around the globe.

“We’ve had an enormous variety of partners involved in this project,” said Kristen Marcell, special projects coordinator at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “We do have to take leadership from the new government, but I think there’s a lot of support in the state agencies for these recommendations and making sure that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Among other changes, report authors say some rural infrastructure should be relocated away from coastlines, while new and existing buildings in the densely packed New York City metropolitan region should be reconfigured to allow for periodic flooding and sea intrusion. Planners also need to quickly come up with solutions to guard underground infrastructure, especially the flood-prone New York City subway and underground utility cables and pipes.

Those and other recommendations put forth to the governor and state Legislature are the work of the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force, a body established by the Legislature in 2007 and charged with assessing the overall threat climate change poses to New York coasts and what to do about it. The task force, led mostly by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) put forth 14 specific recommended changes, mostly calling for revisions to state statutes and executive orders that would tighten environmental review and also make coastal development more costly in an effort to discourage building in sensitive areas.

Making coastal development less attractive
“Governments can make development in coastal areas less attractive by requiring development projects to internalize the risks of sea level rise and storms in coastal development planning and decision making,” the task force argues.

It suggests making coastal development more burdensome through more stringent building codes, siting requirements, and forcing real estate title holders to fully disclose insurance risks associated with storm surges or damage from seawater intrusion.

The task force also recommends that city, county and state governments seriously consider abandoning whole areas of the coast altogether, to allow vegetation to gradually migrate away from the shoreline and give nature a chance to build more natural barriers to rising seas, hurricanes and severe storms known to hit the Northeast frequently.

Decreasing the vulnerability of coastlines could be achieved by expanding the size of state parks or protected areas. Officials should also consider relocating some coastal infrastructure to higher ground while converting currently inhabited areas into nature zones, the task force says. The report cautions, however, that building relocations should probably be confined to more rural areas, and that doing so in New York City and Long Island suburbs would be too expensive or virtually impossible.

To start off, the task force recommends that the state take a full inventory of all schools, hospitals, police and fire stations, and key transportation links that could become threatened if sea level rise forecasts bear out. Regulators should then get a sense of what it would cost to relocate these structures and how best to do so.

%d bloggers like this: