The Climate Smart Communities program consists of a network of New York communities engaged in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving climate resilience. The program provides guidance to local governments on best practices for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
At its regular meeting on Monday, January 7, the Saugerties village board was briefed on what it would take to become certified as a Climate Smart community. The town of Saugerties has already joined Ulster County, the City of Kingston, and the towns of Woodstock, Esopus, Gardiner, Hurley, Marbletown, Olive, New Paltz (town and village) and Shandaken as certified communities. A group from the village has been studying the idea for about a year, with representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Working on the Climate Smart planning and assessment have been trustee Jeff Helmuth, special projects coordinator Alex Wade, zoning enforcement officer Eyal Saad and village clerk Lisa Mayone.
The Climate Smart planning began after tropical storms Irene and Sandy, said Tracey Testo, program coordinator of natural resources and the environment at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene counties. The group helps communities adopt programs to mitigate the effects of climate change and to deal with problems.
The village is actually in a pretty good position to become a Climate Smart community, Kelsey West, also of Cornell Cooperative Extension, said. The village and town comprehensive plans focus on it, as does the village waterfront revitalization program.
A municipality earns “points” toward certification, Testo said. The village has already earned points for its incorporation of resiliency planning in its comprehensive plan.
There were suggestions for further improvement.
The plan also includes assessing vulnerability to climate events, training municipal officials to use the available risk and vulnerability tools, installing high-water-mark signs in appropriate areas, and developing evacuation plans.
The document details suggestions and “opportunities” under sections that include “vulnerability and risk assessment,” “public outreach and engagement,” “integration of municipal plans,” disaster preparedness and recovery,” and “hazard mitigation implementation.” The document also includes potential funding sources.
Testo encouraged the board to use Cooperative Extension as a resource for planning for climate change. “We have become intimately familiar with all your codes and ordinances and all the projects you’ve completed.” She offered to work with the village on future projects, “and if we see any funding that comes about that might align with any of these projects, we’ll make sure to give you a shout.”
Testo was impressed with the village’s implementation of Climate Smart principles. “Usually when we come to small community there’s little to no climate strategy,” she said. The mayor pointed out a number of ways the village and town work together on environmental issues.
Trustee Terry Parisian wanted to know what it might cost to implement the suggestions. Testo responded that the cost varies from community to community. Many of the municipalities Cooperative Extension works with don’t have money budgeted for climate study.
”Luckily in the Hudson Valley we live in a little bubble where we’re funded to do this for free for municipalities,” Testo said. As communities determine projects they want to go ahead with, they can apply for funding. There is usually a 50-50 cost share.
The next steps include appointing a point person and a committee to implement Climate Smart planning.