Nation-Leading Flood Mitigation and Habitat Restoration Initiative Part of Historic $33 Billion, Five-Year Commitment to Fight Climate Change
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the fourth in a series of regional roundtable meetings where New York State agencies will meet with local stakeholders to assist with the future implementation of the proposed $3 billion "Restore Mother Nature" Environmental Bond Act took place today in Western New York. The roundtable was held at the Niagara Power Vista in Lewiston and engaged stakeholders and municipalities to ensure future projects align with local priorities. Additional roundtables are being scheduled across New York State.
"Western New York, like every corner of the state, has been affected by severe weather in recent years - and that's why we must act before it's too late," Governor Cuomo said. "New York has launched the most aggressive approach in the nation to combat climate change and a critical part of that effort is the environmental bond act, which will allow us to restore damage to habitats and protect communities from flooding."
Unveiled in Governor Cuomo's 2020 State of the State address, the "Restore Mother Nature" Environmental Bond Act outlines a series of critical projects to protect our water resources and fish and wildlife habitats for future generations. Examples of types of projects that can be funded through this new initiative may include:
- Land acquisition to provide recreational opportunities, protect communities from flooding, and safeguard drinking water sources.
- Freshwater and tidal wetland restoration to "put nature to work" filtering contaminants and nutrients.
- Riparian buffers to protect water bodies from nutrient runoff and sedimentation and prevent HABs.
- Fish hatchery investments and public access site improvements to elevate NY as the top state for recreational fishing.
- Measures to bolster resilience including voluntary property buy-outs, right-sizing culverts and bridges, removing obsolete and hazardous dams, and green infrastructure projects.
During the roundtables, New York State agencies, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Department of Agriculture and Markets, Department of State, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and others will engage communities and stakeholders in a transparent process to identify potential projects that reduce risk from flooding and advance habitat restoration.
Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "Governor Andrew Cuomo recognizes the serious scientific consensus that supports the reality of man-made climate change. His Restore Mother Nature Bond Act will turn that recognition in concrete action all across the state, protecting our citizens, our Parks facilities, and our natural resources from the most devastating aspects."
Recent storms, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee, provided clear evidence of the need to bolster the resilience of communities against the effects of climate change and severe weather events. Since 2011, every county in New York has experienced at least two weather-related disaster declarations, and more than half have suffered five or more disasters. Federal and State governments have spent more than $26 billion responding to these disasters, and scientists estimate that flooding will cause more than $50 billion in damage in New York over the next decade. Investing in environmental restoration is essential to New York's continued economic success. The state's floodplains and forests are indispensable natural barriers that reduce risk to communities from increased flooding and more intense storms by providing a first line of defense, as well as vital habitat necessary to sustain fish and wildlife species.
New York's last environmental bond act was passed nearly a generation ago in 1996. This action will help secure funding for critical projects to protect the state's water resources and fish and wildlife habitats for current and future generations.
In addition, Governor Cuomo has proposed sustaining the Environmental Protection Fund for the fourth year in a row at a record high $300 million. Appropriations include $39 million for solid waste programs, $89 million for parks and recreation, $152 million for open space programs and $20 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation program. He has also proposed an additional $500 million for clean water infrastructure, part of the state's unprecedented $3.5 billion commitment to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to clean water.
Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "The economic future of Buffalo and Western New York is inextricably tied to the health and well-being of our waterways and physical environment. The Governor's proposed $3 billion 'Restore Mother Nature' Environmental Bond Act is a major step toward protecting our natural resources, thereby ensuring the economic and environmental vitality of our region for generations to come."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "We know New York State has some of the greatest ecological assets in the nation, and all New Yorkers deserve to have access to world-class open spaces, and clean air and water. The Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act will be an important step forward to protect public health and help ensure a brighter future for our children."