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April 9, 2010 Meeting - Sea Level Rise Task Force

Meeting Summary

SLRTF members present:

Pete Grannis (Chair)
Adam Freed
John Gibb
Jack Mattice
Richard Svenson
Lisa Weiss
Fred Anders
Michael Gerrard
Ivan Lafayette
Camilo Salazar (representing Carrie Meek Gallagher)
Sarah Newkirk

SLRTF members absent:

Gerceida Jones
James Staudenraus
John Walters
Jerry Mulligan (or new Westchester Co. appointee)
Brad Tito (or new Nassau Co. appointee)

Also present:

Steering Committee Chair, Robin Schlaff
Executive Assistant, Kristin Marcell
DEC, DOS, other NYS and NYC agency staff and approximately 20 members of the public.


Please refer to the slide presentation of the draft recommendations located under Important Links at right

The meeting was called to order by Commissioner Pete Grannis at 10:05.

Commissioner Grannis thanked staff for their efforts on both the SLRTF and New York's ambitious Climate Action Plan. The CAP is different from other state plans as it has a specific reduction goal and a strong emphasis on adaptation that will rely heavily on the SLRTF's work.

NYSERDA provided an update on the integrated climate impact assessment (ClimAid). The synthesis report is expected in June or July.

Task Force Member Adam Freed provided an update on New York City's Adaptation Task Force Report. The task force is drafting a report on vulnerabilities and potential strategies; a draft is expected later this month and the final by mid-year. The NYC Panel on Climate Change final summation report should be out by early May and will be published by the New York Academy of Sciences.

Kristin Marcell reviewed the process by which recommendations have been developed and then she and Robi Schlaff reviewed the proposals with the task force members.

See Slide: Key Concepts for SLR Adaptation
See Slide: Recommendation 5

  • Wording should reflect current Stafford Act and FEMA guidance relative to disaster recovery assistance.
  • Can we work with Army Corps of Engineers to encourage it to adopt a more adaptive approach to its planning?
  • We should include at least one recommendation focusing on federal policies. Congress and federal agencies should be urged to amend Stafford Act and polices to conform with realities presented by climate change. We need to spend time exploring the issue of federal/state interactions, e.g., a work group to work with federal agencies.
  • Coastal consistency review provides an avenue to ensure that federal actions reflect state intent.
  • Appreciate distinctions based on population density.
  • NYC currently soliciting comments on draft recommendations from city agencies. Need to ensure flexibility in identifying site-specific adaptation options.
  • SEMO does a lot of hazard mitigation planning with local governments; this provides an opportunity to incorporate recommendations.
  • Is there a timeline to these recommendations? People will take advantage of lack of timeline to issue faulty risk projections. Report should not give insurance industry unfettered mechanism to raise rates. Insurance Department has not developed a policy on this as yet.
  • Would be more comfortable if recommendations included more language to distinguish NYC. NYC will provide draft language for consideration.

See Slide: Recommendations 3&4

  • Who would pay for implementation?
  • Add "hydraulically connected" to description of zone to be expanded.
  • Uncertainty of FEMA maps implies inherent error in methodology; this error has to be recognized in implementation of these recommendations.
  • Need prioritization of areas to be remapped. Recognizing uncertainty and being precautionary makes sense; we can make projections that acknowledge the error.
  • We should all be thinking that this is an adaptive-management process.
  • Mapping and projections should include professional peer-review and coordination among agencies.

See Slide: Recommendations 6, 8, 9 &10

  • Third bullet - Proposed study should include other aspects of climate change (cf. statute.)
  • Recommendation 6 has a lack of clarity as to who will actually coordinate development of mapping and other tools.
    6 is partially redundant with 4.
  • Need some level of coordination among different levels of government to ensure optimal mapping possible.
  • 6 - LIDAR may not always be best - should say "best available technology."

See Slide: Recommendations 1, 2 & 13

  • Fair amount of overlap with Oceans and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council; may want to have this council manage coordination by expanding its mission. OGLECC already has a science board.
  • Need some organization or methodology to ensure coordination among agencies. Coordination comes from top and also from strong interagency staff relations.
  • Statute says that adaptation strategies should address climate change (i.e., not just SLR.)
  • Appropriate to acknowledge non-sea level rise climate effects when they interact with sea level rise, but our recommendations should focus on sea level rise. Limit to sea level rise must be clarified in text of report.
  • General agreement to discuss other aspects of climate change in the context of sea level rise.

See slide: Recommendations 11 & 12

  • Need to balance economic development in 11 - NYC will provide draft language.
  • Need statement in 12 that current knowledge supports taking suggested actions and that following recommendations are intended to enhance our management ability.
  • 12 should include funding of restoration-demonstration projects as well, or maybe in another recommendation.

See Slide: Recommendation 7

  • Local planning & zoning laws - 2nd bullet: Change "will" to "may." "Consider" rather than "prevent" with respect to construction in vulnerable areas.
  • Local waterfront revitalization plans should be included - will provide draft language.
  • Important to distinguish water-dependent structures.
  • Long Island South Shore Estuary Reserve - require council to consider sea level rise in regional implementation plans- also Hudson River Estuary Program
  • Should include recommendations on water quality, existing septic systems, ownership of emergent land.
  • Recommendations do not say much about impacts on transportation, especially NYC airports, railroads, etc. Edit to ensure parallel structure in bullets.
  • What is prioritization of recommendations?
Audience Comments:
  • Applauds work of task force in the main, however, recommendation 11 doesn't go far enough. Disappointed in recommendation 5; it is contrary to evidence that barrier islands are vital to mainland protection. Why is NYS taking position contrary that of other states, active protection of beaches?
  • When you go to public, what would be most useful type of information for public to provide? Input at all levels is important. From broad policy direction to site-specific information.
  • Thanks to staff, notes urgency. Incentives needed in regulations and policies to facilitate fast-tracking of projects that reflect aims of the task force. Make it easy to do the right thing.
  • Why hasn't greater influence been brought on NYC to address sea level rise in its waterfront plan? Why is NYC allowed to build residences in flood zones?
  • Will report include recommended individual actions?
  • Great first step. Hope that none of strongest recommendations will be watered down to accommodate NYC, better to say you don't have universal agreement on individual recommendations, shouldn't be building into waters around NYC, warning about loosely-defined term "restoration" - can imply quid pro quo offsite. Recommend narrower definitions of water-dependency for infrastructure and better restrictions on public infrastructure.
  • Would like timeline for how coastal protection zone would be applied in regulations, etc., or at least description of a step-wise pathway.


The meeting continued with a discussion of plans for outreach during the public review period. Staff is currently planning to hold an informational/public comment event via videoconference from Albany to downstate DEC offices and to hold in-person meetings on Staten Island, and in Suffolk and possibly Nassau County. Staff also agreed to participate in events sponsored by other organizations and to explore options for videoconferencing meetings to additional sites. The public meetings are planned for approximately June 14-17. The full draft report, including recommendations will be released in early June and allow for at least a 45-day public comment period.

The meeting concluded with concurrence of the task force that staff may proceed with planning and conducting public review of the current recommendations, with changes based on comments made at this meeting. The task force agreed that it need not plan a formal meeting to discuss the draft report before public review begins. The draft report will be distributed to task force members by email and members will email comments and concerns prior to the distribution for public review. Additionally, if task force member(s) request a face to face meeting, Commissioner Grannis can call a task force meeting before public distribution if necessary.

Agenda for the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force Meeting:

Date: Friday, April 9, 2010
Time:10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Location: Public Service Commission Board Room, 4th Floor, 90 Church Street, Manhattan, New York City. Directions to the Public Service Commission in Manhattan.

This meeting is open to the public and will include review of the draft task force recommendations for adaptation to sea level rise before they are released for general public review later in April.

Attendees are asked to pre-register by emailing their names to slrtf@gw.dec.state.ny.us by noon, April 8. Include "April 9 Meeting" in the subject line. Attendees will be required to present a driver's license or other photo identification at 90 Church Street and should allow 15 minutes for the security check.

Meeting Purposes:

  • Ensure the task force understands the process to date for developing the draft recommendations, and the timeline and goals going forward
  • Obtain task force review and approval of draft recommendations
  • Review plans for public review of the SLRTF report
Time Topics Presenters
10:00 - 10:10 Welcome, Introductions, Announcements

Pete Grannis, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation

10:10 - 10:15 Update on state adaptation planning Robi Schlaff, Department of Environmental Conservation
10:15 - 10:20 Review and discussion of recommendation-development process
to date and timeline going forward
Robi Schlaff, Kristin Marcell, Department of Environmental Conservation
10:20 - 12:00 Review and discussion of draft recommendations Robi Schlaff, Kristin Marcell
12:00 - 12:15 Plans for public review of draft final report Mark Lowery, Michelle Moore, Department of Environmental Conservation
12:15 - 12:30 Public questions and comments
12:30 Adjourn

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