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Environmental Groups Seek Funding for NY Coastal Resilience


Wednesday, June 30, 2021   

NEW YORK -- Environmental groups across the U.S. are asking Congress for money in the next infrastructure package to curb the negative effects of climate change on coastal states. The $10 billion in funding would benefit more than three-dozen coastal states, including New York.

Jean Flemma, director of the Ocean Defense Initiative and co-founder of the Urban Ocean Lab, said a study completed after Hurricane Sandy showed the benefits of coastal wetlands in the Northeast.

"And that analysis showed that coastal wetlands that did exist saved the communities more than $600 million in damages that would have otherwise occurred if those wetlands were not there to help buffer the impact of the storm," Flemma explained.

Superstorm Sandy caused $50 billion in damage, and significant erosion to natural infrastructure, wetland habitats and beaches down the Eastern seaboard. In the next 14 years, it's projected that New York sea levels will rise six inches and the coast will see even more destructive hurricanes.

Apurva Iyengar, youth leadership council member for EarthEcho International, debunked the notion that restoration is about improving coastal appearance.

"It's helping these communities deal with the impacts of the climate crisis better, and we know these impacts are already happening," Iyengar asserted. "Storms have already been getting much, much stronger and more devastating in the last 10 years."

New York City, Suffolk County and Nassau County are also planning solutions for sea-level rise, such as seawalls, raising the roads and fixing drainage; projects that amount to over $4 billion.

Iyengar also pointed to Hurricane Sandy as a reason for more federal investment in resilience efforts.

"As a country, we'll be able to protect those people from having to experience that again, and from being really at the mercy of the climate crisis and the storms that it creates," Iyengar contended.

A 2017 analysis by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration found coastal-restoration projects funded by stimulus money would also benefit the economy, creating around 15 jobs for every million dollars of investment.

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The climate resilience package includes $1.5 billion for measures to better defend the state against wildfires. (Peter Buschmann/U.S. Forest Service)


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