Sea Level Rise in Upstate NY

Did I get your attention? Good.

Below is a chart recently adopted by NYS as the projected Sea Level Rise levels for NYS. Through a law called the Climate Risk and Resiliency Act, many agencies managing important funding mechanisms for state investment in buildings, roads and infrastructure must incorporate flood management approaches and sea level rise projections into the planning.

Part 490, Sea Level Rise Projections for NYC and Hudson Valley areas.

Part 490, Sea Level Rise Projections for NYC and Hudson Valley areas.

Makes sense, right? We should know what our pieces of the world will look like in 2050, 2080 or 2100, as we must plan most of what we build for a 50-100 year span of life.

So why this interesting title? I feel compelled to remind myself and everyone I meet that the Hudson River is an estuary up to Troy, NY, which means it experiences tidal flows. Which means the river edges to 168 mile or so from the NYC Harbor are sea-coast and affected by the changes we are already experiencing in sea level and salinity. Add in the changes in rainwater projections and we’ve got some serious water to manage.

We must understand these projections and work with them intelligently. “Knowledge is power”, so long as we apply that information. The law relies on the particular funding agencies to assess and guide implementations, yet we need to spread this information more widely. Architects and engineers in particular can use this information and the flooding guidance that are part of CRRA to inform their work and to help their owners make informed decisions. Guidance, in the draft stages at this point, will help municipalities benefit from awareness of these projections, so they can invest wisely on infrastructure, and focus their zoning as needed to keep everyone safe over time. Building owners and real estate companies can also guide their investments. Certainly insurance companies can make significant risk policy decisions to not only protect their business long-term, but to help move the market to an understanding of the severity of risk to coastal lands.

We must remember that resiliency cannot truly apply to one house in an unprotected community, or to one town along a river that is mostly unaware of risk and protections. A wall protecting one town on a river such as the Hudson, affected by tides and sea level rise, only pushes the negative effects downstream to its neighbors. We must “lift all boats” in our work. A house on stilts will perhaps survive storm surge, but the surge decimates all the houses around it, the community, the amenities and the reason for remaining is gone.flood

We need to stop looking at these steps and this awareness as restrictions to development and prosperity. I’m sure many readers are thinking something along the lines of “NYS is overstepping and how dare they tell my where to build”.  This is not a restriction, but a gift of knowledge that can be used to make much better decisions as the climate changes begin to more severely affect our state and the world.  And, quite frankly, sea level rise will be affecting all of us, regardless of where we live, due to changes in travel, relocation of homes and effects on resources and infrastructure. “Forewarned is forearmed” is another good saying to keep in mind.

Plan well, and be greener,



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