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For Release: Friday, November 17, 2017

DEC Announces Guidance for Living Shorelines

Part of Governor Cuomo's Efforts to Build More Resilient Coastlines

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced new guidance, "Living Shoreline Techniques in the Marine District of New York State," that emphasizes natural and nature-based solutions to erosion control that will protect New Yorkers and the environment.

"The recent severity of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the destruction left in their wake underscores the critical importance of New York's Living Shorelines Guidance," Commissioner Seggos said. "Natural defenses offer some of the best protection from coastal storms and incorporating nature-based solutions into the State's coastal resiliency planning and construction projects protects our communities. Using natural solutions is part of Governor Cuomo's vision for more resilient coastlines better prepared to withstand the impacts of severe storms and to protect New Yorkers."

The guidance encourages the appropriate use of natural shoreline protection measures in place of hardened or man-made approaches to coastal erosion controls. In addition, the guidance provides information on types of living shorelines, reviews how tidal wetland and protection of waters permit standards relate to living shorelines, and speaks to proper siting, maintenance, and monitoring considerations.

The guidance advances the Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) signed by Governor Cuomo in 2014. CRRA's goal is to speed New York's adaptation to climate change, as well as creating opportunities to use living shorelines as natural buffers to coastal erosion.

New York's guidance is part of national trends emphasizing the importance of and the value of natural and nature-based features to reduce flooding and erosion risks. Living shorelines and tidal wetlands areas are invaluable for improving water quality, marine food production, wildlife habitat, flood, hurricane, and storm control.

In the early 1970s, New York State began to recognize the importance of tidal wetland areas and sought to insure their protection from human activities by passing the Tidal Wetland Act in 1973. Tidal wetlands line much of the salt water shore, bays, inlets, canals, and estuaries of Long Island, New York City, and Westchester County. They also line the Hudson River in Westchester and Rockland Counties upstream to the salt line.

This guidance document is intended to help DEC and the public understand living shorelines and how to incorporate living shorelines within tidal wetland and protection of water regulations with the intention of maintaining the quality of habitats and storm risk reduction functions.

"Some of our most vulnerable species and habitats are located on the coasts, including Piping Plovers, Roseate Terns, Saltmarsh Sparrows, and more," said Jillian Liner, Audubon New York's director of bird conservation. "Living shorelines have the potential to provide habitat and greater ecological value than hardened shorelines and can help protect those irreplaceable species and habitats. We commend NYS DEC for its leadership in compiling information into one comprehensive guiding document to help facilitate living shoreline projects."

Stuart F. Gruskin, chief conservation and external affairs officer at The Nature Conservancy in New York, said, "We commend the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for promoting natural solutions to better protect New Yorkers and our state's valuable coastlines. Living shorelines provide natural storm buffers, like wetlands and marshes, which absorb floodwaters, protect our shores, and help address the cause of climate change by storing excess carbon. We thank Governor Cuomo and NYSDEC Commissioner Basil Seggos for their leadership in improving water quality, protecting New Yorkers, and creating a stronger coast for people and nature."

"Living shorelines are a key to protecting New York's marine life, homes, and businesses in the face of expected climate change induced sea level rise and stronger storms," said Joel Scata, Natural Resources Defense Council Project Attorney. "We applaud New York's leadership to establish a more resilient and healthy coastal environment for our families and look forward to reviewing the guidance."

William Wise, Director of the New York Sea Grant Program, said, "This guidance takes a crucial step forward by informing the public about the benefits of living shorelines, the permits needed for implementing them, as well as maintenance and monitoring concerns; while acknowledging that living shorelines are not appropriate for all areas. New York Sea Grant is here to help property owners understand the coastal processes that lead to erosion of their land and discuss the options available to protect their investment. We look forward to working with the Department to see living shoreline approaches used more commonly where they are most appropriate along the State's coastline."

The current Part 661 Regulations are available on DEC's website.

Notice of the final document and response to comments will be published in the Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB) on Nov 22, 2017. DEC will post the final guidance document and response to comments on the Department's main Tidal Wetlands webpage.

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