The New York Department of State today announced the completion of the Genesee County Climate Resiliency Plan – a comprehensive plan that identifies climate resilient infrastructure, issues and risks in Genesee County, as well as best management practices and potential projects to increase the resiliency of Genesee County communities. Several fact sheets to help the public understand the various components of community resiliency and a series of public webinars on various areas of resiliency were also developed as part of the plan. Genesee County partnered with New York Green, an area not-for-profit consultant, to develop the plan, which was funded through a $250,000 grant from the Department of State Smart Growth Program.
“With this plan, Genesee County has taken a major step forward in protecting its residents and businesses from the impacts of frequent flooding and climate change,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “This partnership among the State, County and New York Green will serve as a model for collaborative resiliency planning in the future and will play a critical role in creating stronger, more resilient communities across Genesee County and all of New York State.”
The Genesee County Resiliency Plan focuses primarily on four goals and identifies strategies to meet those goals:
- Flood Management/Emergency Preparedness Strategies:
- Increased communication to residents in flood-prone areas of hazards/risks from weather;
- Increased intermunicipal cooperation and coordination for warnings;
- Repurposing of acquired flood-prone properties for conservation or recreation; and
- Implementation of flood protection measures.
- Land Conservation/Water Quality Protection Strategies:
- Implementation of Green Genesee Road Map; protection of land riparian buffers;
- Obtaining development rights to high-quality farmland;
- Increased agricultural Best Management Practices; and
- Proper management of large scale solar and related battery storage projects.
- Resilient Infrastructure Strategies:
- Usage of green stormwater infrastructure and renewable energy sources;
- Accommodation of sizing for culverts for volume and waterway functionality;
- Expansion of tree planting and maintenance;
- Enhanced water supply infrastructure; and
- Protection of power during severe weather.
- Community Capacity/Public Education Strategies:
- Preparation of a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for Tonawanda Creek area;
- Education on incorporation of green infrastructure for municipalities and communities;
- Public information on invasive species reduction;
- Native plant use; and
- Promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Prior to this grant, Genesee County took several steps to pave the way for the DOS Resiliency Plan. A previous $175,000 grant from the NYSERDA Cleaner, Greener Communities program provided foundational material that helped guide and inform the climate resiliency plan, including the Green Genesee Road Map—which is a countywide green infrastructure/ecological network map that identified forest blocks, wetlands, streams and riparian buffers, as well as connective corridors between and among these areas—and several tools and resources to help guide land and energy use in the County. Genesee County was also the first county to develop a countywide smart growth plan in 2001, which promotes development within municipal centers, known as “Smart Growth Development Areas,” in an effort to preserve farmland and promote downtown revitalization.
The Leadership Team for the countywide resiliency plan included Genesee County Planning Department, Genesee County Economic Development Center, Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District, Genesee County Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, Town of Batavia, City of Batavia, Town of Pavilion, LaBella Associates, CC Environment & Planning and Red-Green Building & Landscape Design.
More information on the Countywide Resiliency Plan and the Green Genesee/Smart Genesee Project can be found here.
Four other counties received similar grants through the Department of State’s Smart Growth grant program—Albany, Orange, Sullivan and Tompkins. Genesee County was the first to complete its plan, followed by Tompkins County. Albany, Orange and Sullivan Counties are still in the process of developing their plans.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Conserving land, safeguarding water quality, advancing resilient infrastructure, and helping communities prepare for emergencies are vital to protecting environmental and public health. DOS’ Smart Growth Program and complementary actions by local partners are helping communities mitigate the impacts wrought by our tumultuous and rapidly changing climate. DEC commends Genesee County for leading by example with forward-thinking approaches to smart development and climate resiliency.”
NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris said, “We are proud to support Genesee County’s Resiliency Plan to create more resilient communities through an extensive planning process that looked at key actions that can be taken at the municipal level to prepare for the devastating impacts of climate change. Not every region is the same, and this multi-faceted plan reflects collective input on strategies to meet the unique needs of communities and the region alike with the common goal of ensuring healthy, safe and sustainable places to live and work.”
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “These proactive steps by Genesee County will strengthen its ability to withstand the disruptive effects of climate change. Both short term emergency planning and long-term resiliency measures are necessary as we continue to work with our local partners to prepare for climate-related emergencies.”
Rochelle M. Stein, Chair of the Genesee County Legislature, said, “The resiliency of our valuable land and natural resources is a hallmark of Genesee County and our dedication to land use planning. By engaging all sectors of land use planning, desired outcomes and municipal partners it has brought forward a well thought out, environmentally sensitive and achievable plan. This plan allows for a foundational land use decision making tool for Genesee County.”
Felipe A. Oltramari, Director of the Genesee County Department of Planning, said, “Planning for resiliency is no longer a luxury. We are reminded every day that the effects of climate change are here and significant. Through this resiliency planning effort, Genesee County identified the threats posed by climate change to our economy and way of life, and proposed adaptation and mitigation projects and strategies to ensure that we are better prepared for what is to come.”
Mark A. Masse, Senior Vice President of Operations for the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said, “After being involved in economic development for over ten years, one question that companies always ask about is what is the quality of life for our employees if we were to locate in your county? The Countywide Resiliency Plan looks at preserving public spaces for people to enjoy, persevering, and protecting our water supply as well as identifying projects to help with the overall environmental quality of our community. All of these things create a region where people can live, work and play. This report will also be used as a tool to help guide and encourage development in an environmentally sustainable way. It was great to see the level of intermunicipal cooperation that this project generated as well.”
Charlotte Brett, Executive Director of New York Green, said, “The Genesee County Resiliency Plan provides a guide for our communities to improve their resilience in the face increased flooding, periods of extreme heat, high intensity windstorms, ice events, drought, and other effects of a changing climate. The Plan presents scientific information in an easily readable format and offers tools, strategies, and projects that will help Genesee County adapt to changing conditions. It also includes a Resiliency Mapper, a publicly available spatial tool used to track proposed, ongoing, and completed resiliency projects throughout the County. New York Green was proud to partner with the County on this important effort and looks forward to assisting municipalities with local implementation.”
Smart Growth is an approach to community planning and development that integrates what are known as the “4 Es”—Economy, Equity, Environment and Energy. Smart Growth promotes several land use planning principles that create livable, sustainable and equitable communities. Smart Growth principles are embedded in all of the major programs at the DOS Office of Planning, Development and Community Infrastructure programs, including the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, NY Forward, Brownfield Opportunity Area Program and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
Funding for this plan was provided through Title 3 of the NYS Environmental Protection Fund, which Governor Hochul increased from $300 million to $400 million last year. For more information on Smart Growth, see https://dos.ny.gov/nys-smart-growth-program. Learn more about the Green Genesee/Smart Genesee Resiliency Plan at https://www.ny-green.org/countywide-resiliency-plan.