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Krupski proposes forming county task force to study local effects of climate change, develop policies

A proposed task force in Suffolk County will take aim at a global problem: combatting the effects of climate change.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) proposed a law that would form a Coastal Resiliency and Sea Level Rise Task Force, which would develop policies and recommendations for Suffolk County and local municipalities to protect and preserve coastlines.

The group would consist of 21 members, including the commissioner of the Department of Public Works, a representative from each of the 10 Suffolk County towns, a representative from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, a representative of Peconic Estuary Program and more. The task force will also issue a written report after a comprehensive study on how rising sea levels is impacting the county, the bill states.

The proposal was brought before the Public Works, Transportation and Energy Committee Monday, when Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Southampton) asked how the task force will differ from her recent initiative to hire a consultant to look at “long-term coastal resiliency management.” 

In response, Mr. Krupski said the new bill is “very immediate” and would encourage discussion between local stakeholders who regulate coastal erosion locally, like Southold Town trustees and the Department of Environmental Conservation, who are tasked with issuing wetlands permits daily.

“Mother Nature’s not waiting,” he said.

The bill states that sea level rise has led to accelerated coastal erosion worldwide, which threatens the county’s 980 miles of coastline. It later states: “One of the County’s main draws to tourism is its many beaches and waterfront properties, which could be ruined by coastal erosion if these environmental changes are not addressed.”

The Suffolk Times previously reported that two storms that hit East Marion from mid-October to mid-November 2019 did damage to a 1,000-foot section of the Long Island Sound shoreline. At that time, Southold trustee John Bredemeyer of Orient surveyed the beach and said that roughly 4,000 cubic yards of sand were needed to replace what was lost.

The new bill would take immediate effect as legislators wait for Ms. Fleming’s initiative, currently with the Department of Public Works, to obtain a request for proposal. 

In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Krupski said as a long-term goal, the task force will address how officials are spending money on infrastructure. He expressed concern with emergency evacuation routes and procedures for storms.

“All those routes need to be elevated to be sure people can get out and emergency services can get in. So, we really need to look at that more comprehensively,” he said.

As the advisory council and the task force develop, more stakeholders with expertise will be invited to take part in discussions, Mr. Krupski said. 

“Certainly, this will be ongoing as we look at infrastructure, and storm resiliency and flooding,” he said.

The resolution will go before the full legislature Feb. 11.