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June 27, 2008 Meeting - Sea Level Rise Task Force

Meeting Notes

June 27, 2008
10:00 am
Public Service Commission Office, 90 Church St., New York, NY

Task Force Attendees
Pete Grannis
Jared Snyder
John Gibb
Richard Svenson
Lisa Weiss
Louis Pietroluongo
Fred Anders
Brad Tito
Jerry Mulligan
Frank Castelli
Ariella Maron
Sarah Newkirk
James Staudenraus
John J. Walters, III
Jack Mattice

Staff Steering Committee Attendees
Kristin Marcell - DEC Hudson River Estuary Program
Mark Lowery - DEC Climate Change Office
Alan Belensz - DEC Climate Change Office
Susan Mattei - Regional Director, Region 2

Power Point Presentations
Alan Belensz, Chief of Climate Science and Technology, NYS DEC Office of Climate Change: Climate Change and Sea Level Rise (pdf, 1,068 Kb)

Dr. Gary Yohe, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, Wesleyan University: Adaptation in the Coastal Zone (pdf, 725 Kb)

Sarah Newkirk - The Legislative Vision

  • Short time frame, need to focus on the priority issues to produce worthwhile results.
  • Natural resources must be considered up front, not as an aside.
  • Resilience (economic, natural, community, etc.) should be defined for the purpose of our work.
  • Best available science must be sought even with limited resources for the Task Force
  • This is not a forum to debate climate change. We won't be able to determine what sea level rise will be. We can only determine risk tolerance around possible scenarios that are consistent with ranges of change from best available science and design policy around them.
  • Our public doesn't necessarily believe in climate change so outreach will need to be a key component of this effort.
  • This group is focused on adaptation not mitigation. Sea level rise will happen regardless of emission reductions. We cannot debate future reductions of emissions. We must consider the impacts of a variety of emissions scenarios including the worst case scenarios.
  • The state's role is very important. The state is capable of bringing resources to bear across political, institutional and jurisdictional boundaries.
  • We must consider whether existing local government role is capable of responding to changes of this magnitude.
  • This is not a tradeoff between community resilience and natural resources resilience. We can develop strategies that will benefit both.
  • Projected changes in flood recurrence intervals are very serious. 10-year flood event may be more relevant than 100 year flood event in our timeframe.
  • We need to change management paradigm for our long term decision-making processes along our shorelines.

Commissioner Grannis: We have no mandate to take action. We are to do our best to understand the science and make recommendations. We need to give the best risk assessments possible and let others make the decisions.

S. Newkirk: The combined voices of this group will be very powerful if they are aligned and can carry the weight of this issue to decision-makers.


Framework Discussion

  1. Emergency Management
    Concern: Emergency management may be outside of the scope of the Task Force and spread our resources too thin.
    Recommendations: Emergency management was included on the Task Force because of the information resources they may be able to provide to the task force. For example, local governments are working on hazard mitigation plans and the State hazard mitigation plan is in place. A separate work group for emergency management may not be necessary, but emergency management representatives should be involved with all the work groups to utilize all information resources and keep open lines of communication with emergency management personnel.
  2. Sea Level Rise projections/scenarios/impacts to be used by work groups
    1. Recommendations
      • The steering committee would determine the projections of sea level rise that the work groups will work from.
      • The DEC Office of Climate Change can provide guidance as to the best available science.
      • The sea level rise assumptions and science should be determined at the outset and should be agreed upon by the full Task Force.
      • It is important that all workgroups should work from the same assumptions about impacts from sea level rise.
    2. Question: Does the task force need to meet to determine what sea level rise scenarios and impacts will be used?
      Recommendations: The steering committee would make recommendations to the full Task Force as to what sea level rise projections and impacts will be used. The Task Force could discuss these through email communication.
    3. Concern: It is important to remember that thresholds and impacts will not be the same for each region. We may need different sets of impact scenarios and data for different regions.
  3. Reports that may be useful to Task Force
    1. Coastal Erosion Task Force Report should be distributed to task force members-Jim Gilford can provide a copy
    2. Metropolitan NY Greenhouse Report-Malcolm Bowman can provide a copy
    3. Great Lakes Commission
  4. Public participation
    1. Questions
      • How will the public involvement process move forward?
      • How can we actively engage the public on a broader level?
      • What message do we want to give to the public?
    2. Recommendations
      • Form a work group for public education and outreach that would determine target audiences, messages and public participation process/activities
      • The public should be involved early in the process rather than after the final recommendations are done
      • Each of the work groups may want to interact with communities/stakeholders to get public input before and after drafting recommendations
      • Listening tour for target communities
    3. Other Comments
      • There is still a lack of public awareness about climate change impacts and sea level rise impacts.
      • In order to have effective public engagement, the data used by the task force work groups needs to be agreed upon so that we don't end up with dueling science.
      • Public outreach needs to consider environmental justice groups.
      • NYC did a study with focus groups to learn about public perceptions of climate change-Task Force would be interested in having someone talk to the group about their study.
      • The Task Force meetings are open public meetings, and public hearings will also be held for the final recommendations.
  5. Work groups
    1. Question: Will the work groups include members other than the groups represented on the Task Force?
    2. Recommendation: Work groups will not be limited to Task Force representation, but will also be staffed with other stakeholders and experts from a variety of agencies, academic institutions, not-for-profits, etc.
    3. Concern: When working groups are divided by sectors, there is the risk of the working groups not considering the impacts of their recommendations on the other sectors. The working group sectors need to be cognizant of the other sectors when making their recommendations. For example, when making recommendation for infrastructure, natural resources should also be considered.
    4. Recommendation: The steering committee will help to coordinate communication among working groups and there is expected to be cross-pollination of members within the working groups.
  6. Geographic scope
    1. Should the Hudson River to the Troy dam be included?
      Decision: Report should include tidal waters of the Hudson River to the Troy dam.
    2. Hudson River Estuary program can provide resources/expertise to aid the Hudson River scope
  7. Next steps
    1. Designation of staff steering committee members and working group members
      • Task Force members should participate in work groups either themselves or designate staff
      • Send working group designations to Kristin Marcell, Alan Belensz or Jared Snyder
    2. One page proposal/recommendations for public participation (Mark)