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Climate-adaptive Communities in the Hudson River Estuary

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We help communities to adapt to climate change using natural and nature-based solutions. Learn more about our support programs, funding assistance, and more.

Resilience Actions from Climate Smart Communities

Watch our short videos about adaptation and resilience actions from the NYS Climate Smart Communities Program, now available with English and Spanish subtitles.

What is a Climate-adaptive Community?

Climate-adaptive communities anticipate and manage climate risks, respond productively as the climate changes and recover quickly from extreme events. For examples, please visit our page on Hudson River Climate Resilience Case Studies.

Climate Risks in the Hudson River Estuary

People view climate adaptive design boards
Community stakeholders reviewing final
Climate-adaptive Design (CaD) boards
at Open House in the Village of Catskill (L. Zemaitis)

Our communities are facing more frequent and severe climate risks:

  • Flooding, that impacts our waterfront properties and infrastructure;
  • Heat waves, that impact human health and agriculture; and
  • Short-term drought, that impacts our food and water supply.

Please download our climate fact sheet (PDF) for an overview of climate change in the Hudson Valley and what you can do to help. If you are a municipality, please download our more detailed climate summary for communities (PDF). You can also download our one-page overview of the latest climate projections for the Hudson Valley (PDF).

Assistance Available for Climate Resilience

The Hudson River Estuary Program and our partners provide multiple opportunities for communities to receive assistance in improving their climate resilience by supporting our natural life support systems, like floodplains, forests and wetlands, in the valley. For example:

Climate-adaptive Design (CaD) Studio

The Estuary Program, Cornell University, and our partners are bringing Climate-Adaptive Design (CaD) studios (leaves DEC website) to flood-prone Hudson Riverfront communities.

Stakeholders meet to discuss important issues
Members of the community discuss Climate-adaptive
Design (CaD) concepts in Ossining, NY. (L. Zemaitis)

Receive Support and Recognition: Climate Smart Communities

By participating in our state's Climate Smart Communities (leaves DEC website), you can access support, funding and opportunities to save money, reduce greenhouse gases, and become climate adapted.

Climate Resiliency Partnership: Helping Communities Complete Adaptation Actions

Cornell Cooperative Extensions (CCEs) (leaves DEC website) are working directly with municipalities to help them complete Adaptation Actions (chapter 7) (leaves DEC website) from the Climate Smart Communities (CSC) (leaves DEC website) certification program.

Adaptation actions include culvert management plans, vulnerability assessments, flood guides for residents and businesses, incorporating climate adaptation into comprehensive planning and more. The partnership also supports municipalities to achieve CSC certification. For events and more information on this project, please visit their website in the right hand column.

Grants Relating to Climate Adaptation

New York State provides funding support for communities to adapt to climate change. Please visit our webpage Funding Climate Adaptation & Resilience (leaves DEC website).

To check for currently available funding, please see the DEC's grants page, the Estuary Program's grants page, and the Estuary Program's main page for our latest RFPs.

Green and Natural Infrastructure to Manage Stormwater

Green alternatives to traditional "gray" infrastructure are designed to mimic the natural processes that store and treat stormwater runoff. Please visit our page on Green Infrastructure Examples for Stormwater Management in the Hudson Valley for more information.

More information is available on our Cornell partner website Climate change in the Hudson River Estuary (leaves DEC website).

Conserving Nature in Your Community

A student stands near the river while measuring the effects of sea level rise.
High school students measure
projected sea level rise
at Marist College (C. Bowser).

Communities can use nature to adapt to climate change by proactively prioritizing and conserving important land and water resources like forests and wetlands.

Natural Shorelines to Reduce Flooding and Erosion

Green infrastructure can also be applied to shorelines to reduce erosion and flooding. The Estuary Program, with the help of our partners, have released a Coastal Green Infrastructure Research Plan for New York and the Great Kills Harbor Breakwater Study for Staten Island (see "Research on Resilience Strategies" on the right column of this page). The Hudson River Sustainable Shorelines project provides case studies to document the use and benefits of ecologically-enhanced shorelines.

Trees for Tribs to Restore Stream Buffers

The Trees for Tribs program assists property owners in planting native trees, shrubs and grasses along Hudson River tributaries. This creates a stream buffer that can reduce flooding and improve water quality and wildlife habitat, ultimately helping us to maintain a healthy more climate-adapted watershed.

Right-sizing Culverts and Bridges

Many culverts in New York do not have the capacity to pass the amount of water that flows through them from streams during large storms. These undersized culverts may fail, exacerbating local flooding and increasing infrastructure costs. Visit Aquatic Connectivity and Barrier Removal for more information.

Hudson River Climate Resilience Case Studies

The Hudson River Estuary Program is assisting four riverfront communities-Catskill, Kingston, Piermont, and Stony Point-to understand and prepare for the risk of future floods. These Flood Resilience Task Forces are community-driven. Each municipality convened a task force to study climate and flood-projections, analyze local vulnerability assessments, and propose solutions for flood adaptation. This page outlines key issues and solutions identified in each community. A more detailed overview of the Task Force process follows at the end of this page.

Each Task Force culminated in a final report with specific recommendations to improve flood resiliency in the municipality. Of the communities' 91 total recommendations:

  • 10 recommendations have been completed
  • 19 recommendations are in process
  • 11 recommendations are started and on-going

Many common adaptation opportunities were identified in all four communities:

  • Enhancing emergency management and developing and securing evacuation routes;
  • Communicating with community members about flood preparedness;
  • Developing long-term plans for at-risk municipal infrastructure; and
  • Evaluating zoning and building codes and identifying policy to reduce vulnerability.

Financing Waterfront Resilience

The 2019 New York State grants have been announced-view our roundup of more than $150M in funding assistance that can be used toward adapting Hudson River waterfronts to flooding, sea-level rise, and other climate risks: 2019 Financing Waterfront Resilience Fact Sheet (PDF).

Catskill Waterfront Flooding Task Force

The Challenge: Balancing Revitalization Goals with Increasing Flood Risks

image of the ten-member Catskill Flood Resilience Task Force
The Catskill Flood Resilience Task Force (L. Murphy)

"Regardless of the debate over the causes of sea level rise, and the ranging possibilities of its rate, we needed to go through this process of planning for what's become a new normal of larger storms and the flooding they bring… The most important outcome of this is the new relationships, opportunities, and friendships that have been cultivated throughout this process."

- Vincent J. Seeley, President, Village of Catskill

Aerial view of docks, recreation areas, and infrastructure
Aerial view of docks, recreation areas, and infrastructure,
in flood risk areas of Catskill (J. Anzevino)

The Catskill Task Force was led by Scenic Hudson and the Consensus Building Institute with assistance from Catalysis Adaptation Partners.

  • Catskill incurred $3 million in damage to structures during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy
  • Flood resiliency must be linked with economic development of Catskill's downtown area
  • Landowner using adaption strategies to retrofit his working barn for flooding

Download the Catskill Task Force Final Report (PDF, 10 MB).

Recent Successes

  • Registered all residents with Code Red, a county emergency alert system.

Projects Underway

  • Drafting an action plan to implement recommendations
  • Drafting a handbook for landowners on best practices to manage flood risk
  • Installing high water mark signs on bridge

Piermont Waterfront Flooding Task Force

The Challenge: Reimagining a Village Connected and Exposed to the River

aerial photo of Piermont pier and marsh
Aerial view of Piermont Pier housing development (J. Anzevino)

"Piermonters are wedded to the Hudson… we enjoy the river at its best - wondrous, tranquil, and benevolent. We have also borne its fury, overwhelming its banks in nor'easters and tropical storms." - Chris Sanders, Mayor, Village of Piermont

The Piermont Task Force was led by Scenic Hudson and the Consensus Building Institute with assistance from Catalysis Adaptation Partners.

  • Piermont is a village on the lower Hudson River, nestled between the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Piermont Marsh and mouth of the Sparkill Creek.
  • Piermont is highly exposed and at-risk to sea-level rise and flooding. Models estimate that the village could experience a minimum of $192 million in cumulative flood damage by 2100 if no action is taken.
  • During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, 150 homes were flooded, and Piermont suffered more than $20 million in damages. Many business were forced to remain closed for weeks or months.
group photo of the 15 member Piermont Task Force
The Piermont Flood Resilience Task Force (J. Anzevino)

Download the Piermont Task Force Final Report (PDF, 11 MB).

Recent Successes

  • Board of Trustees unanimously adopted final report and recommendations and established the Piermont Waterfront Resiliency Commission (PWRC)
  • Received a $35,000 Department of State (DOS) grant to include flood resilience in the update of their Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan

Projects Underway

  • Working with first responders to write a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan

Stony Point Waterfront Flooding Task Force

The Challenge: Evaluate NY Rising Recommendations in the Context of Sea-level Rise

image of a flooded roadway/parking lot and storm damaged structure
View of flooded road in Stony Point following Hurricane
Sandy in 2012 (L. Konopko)

"Stony Point is a vibrant and connected riverfront and hillside community. Our Vision is to preserve our town's history and protect our people and our natural resources while making the community more resilient in the face of future hazards and attracting visitors to ensure an ecologically sound and economically strong future for the people of Stony Point." - Stony Point's Community Vision for NY Rising Program

The Stony Point Task Force was led by Turner Miller Group and Great Ecology.

  • Community completed a broad study of flood-risk and adaptation recommendations through the NY Rising program
  • Task Force charged with analyzing sea-level rise projections to improve upon their NY Rising Plan and recommended Implementation Projects
  • Evaluated alternatives for managing flood-risk to properties on Grassy Point

Download the Stony Point Task Force Final Report (PDF) and the Stony Point NY Rising Plan (PDF, 11.6 MB).

Recent Successes

  • Passed new waterfront zoning that calls for applicants to factor new Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) and sea level rise adaptation into site design

Projects Underway

  • Beginning design process for shoreline improvements to ensure emergency access on key roads

Kingston Waterfront Flooding Task Force

The Challenge: Protect Kingston's Historic Downtown Waterfront and Wastewater Treatment Plant from Frequent Flooding

a group of citizens around a table at a town meeting with papers and maps in hand
Community members mapping flood experiences at
Kingston's Flood Resilience Task Force kick-off meeting
(Poughkeepsie Journal)

"The findings and recommendations of the Task Force will be instrumental in the implementation of the Climate Action Plan's recommendations as well as contributing directly to the City of Kingston's new Comprehensive Master Plan...part of our effort to improve the quality of life in the City of Kingston and continue to grow as a sustainable community… We have a tremendous opportunity to be a "model" of sustainability, not only for the Hudson Valley but for the entire State of New York." - Shayne R. Gallo, Mayor, City of Kingston

The Kingston Task Force was led by a team including Scenic Hudson, the Consensus Building Institute, Catalysis Adaptation Partners, NYS Department of State, and the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve.

  • Kingston has a robust and historic waterfront area that includes the wastewater treatment plant serving the city's 25,000 residents.
  • Flooding is not uncommon in Kingston's waterfront area as it is vulnerable to flood waters on three sides: from the Rondout Creek; from storm surge and sea-level rise on the Hudson River; and stormwater runoff resulting from development.
  • The City incurred $2.3 million in damage from Hurricane Sandy. if no action is taken, nearly $50 million in flood damage is projected by 2070.

Download the Kingston Task Force Final Report (PDF, 23 MB).

Recent Successes

  • City Council unanimously adopted Task Force final report and recommendations
  • Received $60,000 DOS grant to include flood resilience in update to their Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan
  • Received $25,000 EFC grant to examine long term adaptive planning of wastewater infrastructure

Projects Underway

  • Incorporating Task Force recommendations into the new Comprehensive Master Plan and Brownfield Opportunity Area Implementation Plan
view of the Rondout Creek in Summer flowing towards the mainstem Hudson.
The Rondout Creek flowing into the Hudson River
next to the City of Kingston's Downtown (D. Case)

The Flood Resiliency Task Force Process

The Task Force process was piloted in the City of Kingston in 2013 to help the community make well-informed decisions to achieve a more resilient waterfront. The successful pilot was then replicated in three additional Hudson Riverfront communities in 2014 (Catskill, Piermont, and Stony Point). The objectives of each Task Force are to:

  • Engage the community in developing a vision and recommendations for a more resilient waterfront.
  • Pilot tools to assess risks and vulnerabilities.
  • Evaluate adaptation strategies.
  • Analyze the costs and benefits of selected strategies.
  • Recommend general and neighborhood-specific strategies to reduce flood damage.

Each Task Force met for approximately eight months and was guided by a planning team that included the Hudson River Estuary Program.

Flood Adaptation Tools Used by the Task Force
Scenic Hudson's Sea Level Rise Mapper showing areas on Kingston's waterfront that are vulnerable to sea level rise flooding
(Scenic Hudson's Sea Level Rise Mapper
- link on right)

Scenic Hudson's Sea-Level Rise Mapper

The Sea Level Rise Mapper helps communities see future areas of flooding and permanent inundation due to sea-level rise. To use this mapper, please see the "Sea Level Rise Mapper" link found on the right-hand column.

Coastal Adaptation to Sea Level Rise (COAST)
COAST is a sophisticated economic analysis tool that allows for visualizations of the costs of flood damage under different adaptation scenarios. DEC's Hudson River Estuary Program funded the use of the COAST tool.

The Task Force's Final Report and Future Steps

The work of the Task Forces culminates in a final report delivered to municipal decision-makers. The report includes detailed recommendations on how the municipality can become flood resilient through various planning, operations, public outreach, and emergency management activities in the short and long terms. In addition, the report details site-based recommendations examining each stretch of the community's waterfront considering:

  • Where shoreline protection may be needed
  • Where natural shorelines and innovative architecture might be combined to create resilient neighborhoods
  • Where wetlands and high water should be allowed to migrate inland to safeguard the natural resources of the Hudson

The Hudson River Estuary Program will continue to provide technical assistance to Task Force communities' efforts to implement final recommendations and create safer flood-resilient waterfronts. Furthermore, these communities are now better-positioned to apply for funding from state and federal sources. You can download our fact sheet on financing waterfront resilience (PDF) that includes state and federal funding resources for communities. All Flood Resilience Task Forces were completed in partnership with New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission.

More about Climate-adaptive Communities in the Hudson River Estuary: