D E C banner
D E C banner


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has added a link to a translation service developed by Microsoft Inc., entitled Bing Translator, as a convenience to visitors to the DEC website who speak languages other than English.

Additional information can be found at DEC's Language Assistance Page.

February 25, 2009 Meeting - Sea Level Rise Task Force

Meeting Summary


Task Force and Steering Committee Members:

Fred Anders, NYS Department of State, Coastal Resources

Frank Castelli, Suffolk County, Division of Water Quality Improvement

Karen Chytalo, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, (DEC) Marine Resources

Udo Drescher, NYS DEC, Ass't Regional Counsel Region 2

Adam Freed, NYC Mayor's Office

Alexander B. (Pete) Grannis, NYS DEC, Commissioner

Ivan Lafayette, NYS Department of Insurance

Kristin Marcell, NYS DEC, Hudson River Estuary Program

Suzanne Mattei, NYS DEC, Regional Director Region 2

Jack Mattice

Sarah Newkirk, The Nature Conservancy

Fred Nuffer, State Emergency Management Office

Robin Schlaff, NYS DEC, Special Counsel to the Commissioner

Amanda Stevens, NYS Energy Research and Development Authority

Richard Svenson, NYS Department of Health, Div. of Environmental Health Protection


Diane Buxbaum, Sierra Club

Valerie Monastra, Village of Ossining

Dr. James Cervino, Pace/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

Douglas Schrader, Metro North

Jamey Dempster, Cambridge Systematics

Joyeeta Banerjee, Hazen and Sawyer

Mary Arnold, Planet NYC

Brooke Gillespie, NYSDEC/Hunter PSSP

Julie Stein Kaplan, NYC DEP

Sandeep Mehrotra, Hazen and Sawyer

Ellen Hartig, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation

Joeseph Placide, NYS Department of Insurance

NYC Release of Climate Risk Information, Adam Freed, NYC Mayor's Office

Discussion Notes

  • The NYC Panel on Climate Change recently released a Climate Risk Information Summary (See "Links Leaving DEC's Website" in right column) that it developed for the NYC Climate Change Adaptation Task Force.
  • NYC plans to reevaluate the work of the NYC Panel every 5 years on a schedule consistent with the regular IPCC evaluation.
  • NYC is working with USACE and Homeland Security to coordinate policy responses.
  • NYC developed high-end estimates for sea level rise incorporating rapid acceleration of ice melt because of concern that IPCC estimates for sea level rise may be too conservative.
  • Parkland and wetlands will be included as critical infrastructure in NYC report.
  • NYC plans to look in more detail at the potential costs of damage from a large hurricane. They are scoping a cost/benefit analysis using the HAZUS model.
  • NYC is planning on doing climate risk outreach to all vulnerable communities in the city including those community boards representing coastal neighborhoods.

Summary of Public Outreach Meetings, Kristin Marcell, DEC (See PDF summary)

Discussion Notes

How can we raise the awareness of local officials?

  • We need to develop a strategy to meet with local officials in a targeted way. The NYS Association of Mayors and Assoc of Towns might be a good place to start.
  • We may want to consider working with student groups at colleges and universities. Many are very supportive of climate action. We could ask them to reach out to their own local officials.
  • Conservation commissions can help raise awareness and implement coastal climate policies at the local level. In Westchester they are coordinating across towns very well.
  • A SUNY Stony Brook policy group is developing climate policy recommendations with help from, Dr. James Cervino, a Woods Hole researcher. James offered to give a presentation on erosion and flooding in Louisiana to show the reality of the issue wherever such a presentation might be of use.
  • We want to keep in mind that the task force is not funded and we have to be careful we don't overextend ourselves.
  • NYS Department of Insurance is doing outreach to find out what concerns communities have about insurance. Their work seems to indicate that local governments are becoming more aware of climate issues; however, the state might be more likely to implement coastal policy guidance than the private sector.
  • Ceres, a non-profit, is working with insurance companies on a report that is coming out in a couple of days called: Blueprint for a Resilient Coast. It will outline conflicts between the NFIP and real risk-based pricing. The Nature Conservancy is participating in this report.

Challenges/Suggestions for engaging local officials

  • Local government officials are part time and often stressed for time. They need a clear message, structured information, and concrete steps for implementing a response.
  • Communities push issues like climate change to the side unless the state forces them to take action.
  • Aggressive state policies will elicit a strong reaction from local governments and give them a reason to respond.
  • Consider developing a decision tool or tree for local officials that gives them clear choices for how to respond to climate change.

Timing challenges for the Task Force

  • The state is currently offering funding and grants to encourage waterfront development. The Task Force needs to make recommendations for these grant programs to incorporate sound climate policy..
  • Projects slated for funding by the stimulus package have already been reviewed for environmental considerations, scored, and approved and will move forward regardless of sea level rise implications. These projects are worth a lot of money and there is no mechanism for review based on sound climate policy.

Other recommendations

  • We should use the state building code to implement restrictions on development or to include variables such as site design/location in review.
  • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides a mechanism for rating an entire community based on whether they are making sound development decisions in high- risk areas. Stricter local codes reduce local insurance costs. Most NYS communities don't rate higher than a 7 on this scale (lower # is better). Other states have communities that score as high as 4.
  • Task Force may want to consider soil type as we develop coastal guidance. Dynamically compacted soils with large developments along coastlines are at high risk.

Discussion of potential extension of task force deadline, Commissioner Grannis, Robin Schlaff, DEC

Following discussion and comment the members of the Task Force and Steering Committee unanimously approved asking the legislature for an extension of the Task Force's work to incorporate the work of the NYC Adaptation Task Force and the NYSERDA statewide climate impacts assessment into their findings and recommendations.

Discussion Notes

  • NYSERDA will have access to expertise that we won't and we would really benefit from their work. We should at least be on the same track with them and perhaps even take a bit longer to cull out the most important information from these projects.
  • Case studies of climate impacts were requested by the public at the outreach meetings and the NYSERDA project will produce these for us.
  • It is essential that these three projects (NYSERDA, NYC, and SLR Task Force) come out at the same time with similar findings. The new information that NYSERDA will develop might affect recommendations we might make to legislature.
  • If we do get an extension we should consider drafting a preliminary status report, due at the end of this year, to inform the legislature about our process and our plans for 2010. This report should include interim recommendations to the legislature that set the stage for our final report.
  • The comments collected at the public outreach sessions clearly support an extension.
  • Legislators will be open to this idea and we can make a good case. It is better to come forward and say we need more time to make this good rather than miss the deadline.
  • It is unlikely that we will be able to bring extension to legislature before the budget is passed. Until the extension is approved the Task Force will maintain a schedule to have a final report by December 2009.

Reports from Sector Work Group Chairs

Ecosystems and Natural Habitats, Sarah Newkirk, The Nature Conservancy and Karen Chytalo, DEC

  • Meeting on a monthly basis
  • Developing statements of likelihood (similar to IPCC process) regarding impacts to each ecosystem type, which organisms will be affected, and potential benefits
  • Chose this method to develop clear statements that scientists could agree with - the language is very important
  • This process fits very well with a table recently developed by Kristin Marcell to serve as a model for each workgroup to use
  • Next meeting of ecosystems work group on March 19th

Infrastructure and Community Resilience, Suzanne Mattei, DEC

  • Developed a robust workgroup membership including chairs for six subgroups.
  • Group is currently focused on completing an inventory of at-risk infrastructure and potential impacts
  • Next steps include asking sector chairs to gather information on what each sector is already doing to address sea level rise
  • Plan to take an in-depth look at solid waste and shoreline protection issue.
  • Developing a bibliography of reports that address infrastructure issues for reference
  • Next meeting of infrastructure work group March 6th

Legal, Udo Drescher, DEC

  • Planning to complete an inventory of existing regulatory structures in the US and abroad
  • Inventory will provide perspective on potential policy/regulatory recommendations
  • First meeting will be the first week of March

Agenda for the meeting of the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force held on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 in Manhattan, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Although this meeting is intended for the members of the State Sea Level Rise Task Force, it is open to the public. Pre-registration is not required.

This meeting is being hosted by the City University of New York Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College West Building, 695 Park Avenue, Room 603. Please note: Videoconferencing and conference call capability will not be available at this meeting.

Directions: Take the 6 train to the "68th Street / Hunter College" stop. From the street, enter the building that is on the southwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 68th Street, which has the large cubic sculpture on the corner. Take the escalator or elevator to the 6th floor and proceed to Room 603.

Meeting Purposes:

  • Present task force with summary of public outreach sessions
  • Present task force with information on extension of Task Force deadline to 2010
  • Present task force with draft outline of final report structure
  • Hear progress to date from workgroup chairs


10:00 - 10:15 Arrival and Sign-in

10:15 - 10:30 Welcome and Introductions - Commissioner Pete Grannis, DEC

10:30 - 10:50 Summary of public outreach sessions on the scope of the task force - Kristin Marcell, DEC

10:50 - 11:20 Discussion and action on extension of task force report deadline to incorporate findings from NYSERDA New York Climate Impacts Assessment and NYC Climate Adaptation Task Force - Pete Grannis, DEC and Robin Schlaff, DEC

11:20 - 11:40 Draft outline of final task force report structure - Kristin Marcell, DEC

11:40 - 12:00 Reports from sector work group chairs

  • Ecosystems and Natural Habitats
    Sarah Newkirk, The Nature Conservancy and Karen Chytalo, DEC
  • Infrastructure and Community Resilience
    Lisa Weiss, DOT and Suzanne Mattei, DEC

12:00 Adjourn

Next steering committee meetings: March 13th and April 15th.