Helping Hudson Riverfront Communities Adapt to Climate Change

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
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Hudson RiverNet
News from the Hudson River Estuary Program

Helping Hudson River Communities Adapt to Climate Change

A woman holds a poster that says Nyack is a certified bronze climate smart communityDEC's Hudson River Estuary Program helps communities build long-term resilience to extreme weather and climate change in partnership with New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension. A primary focus of this work is to provide technical assistance and funding support to assist Hudson River Valley communities complete adaptation actions featured in the Climate Smart Communities (CSC) program. These actions include culvert management plans, flood preparedness guides, climate vulnerability assessments, natural resource inventories, and open space plans. This support also helps communities include climate resiliency measures in local comprehensive plans or Local Waterfront Revitalization plans. This assistance has dramatically increased the number of Hudson Valley region municipalities taking the Climate Smart pledge and achieving CSC certification. The Hudson Valley Region now leads participation in the state’s Climate Smart program.

Climate-adaptive Design

The Climate-adaptive Design (CaD) project links Cornell University graduate and undergraduate students in landscape architecture with flood-risk Hudson riverfront communities to explore design concepts that envision climate-resilient and connected waterfronts. The four-month design process begins with students studying the community’s cultural history, its watershed and estuarine setting, and New York State climate change projections. Community stakeholders are engaged throughout the program to help inform the design process and support usable results for the municipality. Students visit local sites and neighborhoods, interview residents, investigate options for waterfront adaptation, and relocation of infrastructure. The final designs provide innovative concepts to address flooding, sea-level rise, and access to the river using natural and nature-based solutions.

The City of Poughkeepsie was recently selected as the host community for the 2021 Climate-adaptive Design project. Cornell students will evaluate the waterfront and examine options for highly vulnerable areas that often are often impacted by flooding and sea-level rise, and will help Poughkeepsie to develop a vision for resilience. A design presentation will be scheduled for the Poughkeepsie community at an on-site open house at the end of the year.

A group of people wearing masks sit under a large pavilion next to the Hudson River.

Collaborating on Resiliency and Environmental Justice

DEC's Estuary Program regularly convenes agency and nonprofit partners to advance climate-adaptation and resiliency in the region. Since 2015, this group includes New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the departments of Health, State, and Transportation - has provided guidance and support to local governments through initiatives that help implement the state's Community Risk and Resiliency Act, and the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

DEC's Estuary Program also worked with partners to update the climate-adaptation and resilience chapter of the CSC certification program, including methods for relocating infrastructure outside the floodplain, using green infrastructure, and protecting source water. We participated in a new working group with DEC's offices of Climate Change and Environmental Justice to collaboratively address the themes of justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the CSC certification program.

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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