If It Keeps On Rainin', Levee's Goin' to Break
By Amanda Post, Biologist, Sterling Environmental Engineering, P.C.
The Farmer's Almanac for November 2016 through October 2017 predicts above normal precipitation and near-normal snowfall….whatever that means these days.
Is your county ready for whatever may come?
The NYS Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) is a recently enacted law to provide guidance on projected sea-level increases along the Hudson River. In turn, facilities, projects and those applying for state funding must consider these projections in plans and demonstrate foresight for emergency preparedness. CRRA will be enforced in New York State beginning January 1, 2017. (For further details, visit www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/103877.html)
New York State has experienced significant flooding events in the past ten years that had devastating socioeconomic impacts in many counties. Residents of New York have learned the hard way that community planning must carefully consider the natural environment. The future success of municipal planning depends on being in tune with both the stability and potential extremes of the Hudson River, and working with regulators to receive guidance on environmental trends.
Water, Water, Everywhere
Infrastructure across New York State continues to age and deteriorate. An independent review of infrastructure needs, capacity, and funding for New York State was published in 2015 by the American Society of Civil Engineers' New York State Council. The report, “2015 Report Card for New York's Infrastructure” assigned the state an overall grade of C-.
New York State spent millions of tax dollars to address damage from flooding in 2011 alone. It is ironic that despite these emergency financial expenditures, we still begrudge upgrading; instead choosing to push our flood protection and water control infrastructure to the brink of failure. Repairing and upgrading infrastructure is time, skill, and capital intensive. The cost of letting infrastructure fail is even greater than the cost of routine maintenance, preemptive upgrades, and careful
planning. Water related infrastructure is a good place for counties to start improving their overall ability to maintain safety and combat emergency situations.
Preparing for County-Wide Safety, Protection & Recovery
Compliance with the new state resiliency regulations and resulting infrastructure upgrades will help protect residents and municipal assets. Counties should consider the need for permitting, mapping, monitoring, and design as part of the process of upgrading infrastructure or removing derelict infrastructure.
To properly plan and implement projects involving flood protection and water control infrastructure, counties likely will require assistance with permitting and agency coordination, wetland delineations, environmental monitoring, grant applications and preliminary engineering consultation and design.
Getting It Done
With strategic research and planning, counties can access state funding to offset the cost of climate-resilient infrastructure improvements. The above photograph highlights a tide gate removal project which received funding from the NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary program. The reason for the tide gate removal was twofold: removing the derelict
tide gate alleviates flooding issues while simultaneously allowing herring and American eel upstream access. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also awarding funds to climate resilient infrastructure projects, and created a factsheet identifying infrastructure that may qualify for federal funding. Potentially eligible infrastructure projects are:
ï® Renewable energy and/or energy efficiency (including greenbuildings)
ï® Sustainable land use (including forestry and agriculture)
ï® Biodiversity conservation
ï® Clean water and/or drinking water
ï® Climate change adaptation
Each county will have unique environmental concerns, priorities and strategies for addressing emergency preparedness. Overall, New York State counties share the common goal of strengthening infrastructure to cope with increasingly severe storm weather trends. The American Society of Civil Engineers' New York State Council's recommendations for our infrastructure is as follows:
1. Modernizing New York's Infrastructure Should Be A Top Priority
2. Let's Rebuild Better- Make New York's Infrastructure Resilient andSustainable
3. Expedite Project Delivery
4. Innovate Today
5. Be A Part of the Solution- It's Your Infrastructure.
Counties that heed these recommendations will ultimately reduce or eliminate unplanned and unbudgeted emergency response costs associated with severe storm events. Responsible, forward-looking infrastructure planning and design, and compliance with the new CRRA will ultimately reduce costs and property damage while increasing public protection.