DEC Announces New Measures to Help New York Build Stronger and Smarter to Reduce Flood Risk Statewide

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DEC Announces New Measures to Help New York Build Stronger and Smarter to Reduce Flood Risk Statewide

Supports New York's Nation-Leading Efforts to Bolster Community and Infrastructure Resilience and Reduce Flood Damage

Measures Will Help Incorporate Smart Growth and Natural Features in Project Designs to Reduce Risk of Flooding and Erosion

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced new measures being deployed by State agencies during project planning to better assess and prevent flooding from sea-level rise, storm surges, and other natural flood causes. With sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change continuing to threaten New York's coastal and inland communities, the new flood-risk management guidance documents and model local laws will be valuable tools to help New York build stronger over the long term and prevent flood damage statewide.

Commissioner Seggos said, "With climate change increasing the risk of flooding statewide, Governor Cuomo, DEC, and our partners are continuing our efforts to protect New York's communities and public investments from flooding hazards. The guidance released today will serve as valuable resources for both State agencies and those municipalities that choose to incorporate the State's flood-risk management guidelines into local planning, and those project designers that recognize the value of using nature-based measures to reduce the risk of flood damage now and into the future."

Much of New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson River are particularly vulnerable to coastal flooding, and communities and infrastructure across the state are located in ever-expanding flood-prone areas. Sea-level rise along New York's coast has averaged 1.2 inches per decade since 1900 and will accelerate to result in permanent inundation as ocean waters warm and glaciers and ice sheets melt. By 2100, projected sea-level rise could result in water levels associated with the current one-percent annual chance coastal flood, the so-called 100-year flood, occurring up to 19 times more often than now. New York has also experienced a dramatic increase in the number of times more than two inches of rain - sufficient to cause flooding in many regions of the state - falls over a 48-hour period. More frequent heavy precipitation will increase the risk of flash floods in urban and hilly areas, and inundate infrastructure, homes, and businesses located in expanding floodplains.

With these significant environmental, economic, and public safety challenges happening now and expected to become more severe in the future, DEC prepared four flood-risk management guidance documents to reduce risk by helping to incorporate proven mitigation methods in project siting and design. DEC's guidance, developed in consultation with the New York State Department of State and experts from numerous other agencies, authorities, universities, and businesses, will direct implementation of the Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) and promote the effective use of natural resources and natural processes to reduce risk of flooding.

The CRRA requires applicants for certain DEC permits and certain State funding programs to demonstrate they have considered sea-level rise, storm surges, and flooding in project designs. The CRRA also requires DEC to consider these hazards in some facility-siting regulations and amended the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act to prohibit State agencies from approving, undertaking, supporting, or funding public infrastructure projects unless the projects are consistent with mitigation of future physical risk from sea-level rise, storm surges, and flooding.

The New York State Department of State also prepared model local laws to increase resilience, which provide guidance on specific measures that localities can take to reduce flood risk by managing development in high-risk areas and preserving natural features like wetlands and dunes that provide protection against flooding. Some of the topics included in the model local laws include: land use and zoning tools, such as overlay zoning districts, development standards and site plan review; wetland and waterway protection measures; floodplain development standards; coastal shoreline protections; and stormwater management. The model local resilience laws were developed by DOS, in consultation with DEC, and other agencies and stakeholders. They were required by the CRRA which is part of Governor Cuomo's post-Sandy efforts to embed resiliency into state and local policies, programs and permits.

Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "Communities across New York State have been devastated by flooding over the past several years. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, New York State is working to provide communities with the resources to mitigate the risks from floods. The Department of State is proud to work with DEC and other agency partners to provide the necessary tools for local governments to address these risks, understand their options and achieve greater resiliency."

The guidance documents released today describe how official projections of sea-level rise adopted by DEC, as well as projections of increased riverine flooding, should be incorporated into project design in facility-siting, permitting, and funding programs. Consideration of riverine flooding extends the State's resiliency efforts beyond tidal areas, which is particularly significant given the number of non-tidal communities in New York that have experienced flooding.

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), signed into law by Governor Cuomo in July 2019, amended the CRRA to expand the list of State permit programs covered by the law, as well as the scope of climate hazards that must be considered in these permit programs. The four documents released today focus on flood-risk reduction, as required by the CRRA, and DEC is currently reviewing all permit programs to identify amendments to guidance, regulations, and other measures consistent with the CLCPA that may be necessary to ensure adequate consideration of risks under future climate conditions.

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan
Governor Cuomo's nation-leading climate agenda is the most aggressive climate and clean energy initiative in the nation, calling for an orderly and just transition to clean energy that creates jobs and continues fostering a green economy as New York State recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieving its mandated goal of a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy wide carbon neutrality. It builds on New York's unprecedented ramp-up of clean energy including a $3.9-billion investment in 67 large-scale renewable projects across the state, the creation of more than 150,000 jobs in New York's clean energy sector, a commitment to develop 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, and 1,800 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York will build on this progress and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, while meeting a goal to deliver 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy investments to disadvantaged communities, and advancing progress towards the state's 2025 energy efficiency target of reducing on-site energy consumption by 185 TBtus.

For more information about the CLCPA and the Climate Action Council, visit the Climate Act website.

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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