Urgent Action Needed to Prepare New York and New Jersey Communities for Sea Level Rise
EDF statement of Kate Boicourt, Director, Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds, New York-New Jersey
(New York, NY. - February 15, 2022) Today, NOAA’s National Ocean Service and interagency partners released an updated technical report highlighting the risks facing people living in coastal communities across the country from accelerating sea level rise. The report reinforces that we are on a path to sea levels rising an additional foot or more nationally by 2050, meaning that “moderate” flooding is projected to occur more than ten times as often as it does today. This report also highlights that we are already experiencing the impacts of sea level rise. Trends in minor-to-disruptive tidal flooding have grown from about five days in 2000 to 10-15 days in the New York City metropolitan region.
“The latest report on sea level rise has significant implications for communities in New York and New Jersey. Without action, sea level rise will cause widespread devastation to our region’s communities, wildlife, businesses and vital infrastructure. But we can act now to advance bold solutions to build the resilience of our region’s communities before the worst effects take hold. This assessment reinforces the need to adequately and accurately incorporate tidal flood risk into flood risk management projects like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries study as well as state and local land use policy. Our leaders must also work to invest in solutions, such as natural infrastructure, to provide a vital buffer for communities from rising seas. New York State’s environmental bond act provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do just that by investing in a more resilient future to keep our region safe from sea level rise. In New Jersey, leaders must move expeditiously to implement the recently released Climate Change Resilience Strategy. Hurricanes Sandy and Ida demonstrated why government leaders must prioritize efforts to reduce flood risk, especially in communities that are most vulnerable, and do so in a manner that is just, equitable and addresses the disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis. Limiting future rates of sea level rise is an existential issue for our coastal communities, so leaders must work urgently to stabilize the climate with solutions that avoid these worst-case scenarios.”
- Kate Boicourt, Director, Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds, New York – New Jersey, Environmental Defense Fund
- This latest assessment follows another recent study published in Nature Climate Change indicating flood-related losses already cost the US approximately $32 billion each year and flood risk in the US will increase by more than 25% by 2050. The study indicates that future flood risk will disproportionately impact Black communities on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
- New Jersey released its first Climate Change Resilience Strategy to address long-term flood risks.
- In New York State, $4 billion in investments in environmental and resilience projects will be decided by voters via a 2022 ballot measure.
- At a regional level, the USACE is studying coastal storm risk and options for addressing that risk through the New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries Study. Advocates and congressional members have pushed for the USACE to take a more holistic, multi-hazard, nature-based and equitable approach.
- The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIIJA) passed by Congress last year brings huge investments for critical resilience initiatives across the federal government and directly to states. Included is nearly $23 billion for USACE’s Civil Works program, providing a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity to fund and implement water resource infrastructure projects and programs that center equity and natural infrastructure solutions to benefit communities and ecosystems around the country.
- Federal adaptation funding for FEMA programs like the Building Resilience Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) will triple over the next five years. The most recent BRIC grant cycle received a record-setting $4.16 billion in applications from states, tribes, and territories for initiatives that build resilience to flooding and other natural hazards.
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