Study: NY shoreline communities to spend $101M to combat environmental damages

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NEW YORK (WWTI) — As many local communities border the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, extreme weather and environmental events are predicted to continue to impact residents financially.

A recent survey lead by the The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, detailed ten New York cities, villages and other jurisdictions along the Great Lakes to show coastal damage from climate change. This survey found that coastal damages will cost these communities at least $101 million over the next five years, with shoreline communities having already spent $36 million in the past two years.

“While water in the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River basin are naturally variable with cyclical highs and lows, climate change is exacerbating these fluctuations, with water levels reaching record highs in recent years,” Chair of the Cities Initiative Walter Sendzik said. “High water levels, paired with severe storm events and wave action, are leading to greater erosion and flooding that threaten public and private properties, critical infrastructure, and recreations and tourism amenities in shoreline communities.

The survey in total also asked for responses from shoreline communities across the water system. This included 241 cities, villages and other jurisdictions. Below are additional findings from the survey:

  • Over 95% of respondents were high or moderately concerned about coastal issues facing their community
  • Over the past two years, respondents indicated spending $878 million to respond to coastal challenges
  • Half of respondents are currently incorporating strategies to anticipate, accommodate, and adapt to changing coastal conditions in their planning efforts and noted a lack of technical expertise, low staff capacity, and a lack of funding as primary barriers to consideration.

In response, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, along with additional regional organizations have called for funding in an upcoming infrastructure package. According to the Initiative, this would “enable Great Lakes states and local governments to prepare for, respond to, and build resilience to current and future impacts from high lake levels and severe weather events.”

Across the eight Great Lakes states, there is 4,500 miles of shoreline, which is nearly as much as all the states bordering on the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and west coasts combined.

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a binational coalition of over 120 U.S. and Canadian mayors and local officials. The goal of the initiative is to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

The Coastal Resilience Needs Assessment Survey was completed in partnership with the University of Illinois Applied Research Institute. Information was collected between March 2021 and May 2021.

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