RPA Proposes Formation of Tri-State Coastal Commission to Prepare For Rising Sea Levels

Over Next 30 Years, A Majority of Tri-State Energy Capacity-- as well as Four Major Airports, 21% of Public Housing Units and 12% of Hospital Beds-- Will Be in Areas At Risk of Flooding

New RPA Report Outlines Necessary Changes to Governance to Address this Massive Challenge

Almost exactly five years after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the Tri-State area, Regional Plan Association (RPA) has released a report entitled “Coastal Adaptation: A Framework for Governance and Funding to Address Climate Change,” which outlines the environmental challenges facing the region and offers a blueprint for a new regional governance structure and a funding mechanism to address this challenges in a comprehensive and continuous manner, RPA leadership announced today.

Over the next 30 years, 59% of Tri-State energy capacity-- as well as four major airports, 21% of public housing units and 12% of hospital beds-- will be in areas at risk of flooding.  But too often, our region’s climate change planning is reactive and local rather than pro-active and regional, according to the new report.

The RPA report recommends a Regional Coastal Commission (RCC) similar to ones already in existence in the Chesapeake Bay area and the San Francisco Bay area. The RCC would prioritize projects to be paid for by new state adaptation trust funds, which would be built on surcharges on property and casualty premiums across the region. The commission would produce and update a regional coastal adaptation plan to align policies across municipal and state boundaries, and set a long- and short-term regional plan.  

"As the consequences of climate change intensify, towns and municipalities in the region are woefully underprepared to address them," said Robert Freudenberg, Vice President, Energy & Environment, RPA. "Sea level rise, storm surge, and other coastal flooding require that we collaborate across borders and prepare regionally for this growing threat. The formation of a Regional Coastal Commission, with dedicated funding, is a critical first step to proactive planning. This report gives concrete steps policymakers can take to ensure our region will adapt to a changing coastline.”

“The trust fund model represents an opportunity to synthesize public and private sources of capital that are critical for adapting our infrastructure to an uncertain climatic future," said Jesse M. Keenan, Area head, Real Estate and the Built Environment, Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, and author of the study that RPA used to evaluate the funding mechanisms for the RCC.

The Coastal Commission for the Tri-State Region would be responsible for the following:

·         Produce and update a regional coastal adaptation plan that aligns policies across municipal and state boundaries and sets a vision for short-term resilience and long-term adaptation.

·         Develop and manage science-informed standards to guide and prioritize adaptation projects and development in the region’s at-risk geographies.

·         Coordinate and encourage collaborative adaptation projects across municipal and state boundaries.

·         Evaluate and award funding from new adaptation trust funds that align with standards established by the commission.

The report is helping to inform a series of recommendations contained in RPA’s Fourth Regional Plan, its long-term vision for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan area that will be released in full on November 30th.

Click here to view the full report.