By a 4-to-0 vote, the East Hampton Town Board adopted the Coastal Assessment Resilience Plan, known as CARP, into the town’s comprehensive plan last Thursday.
The town completed CARP “in recognition of the need for proactive planning to address its vulnerabilities to sea level rise, shoreline erosion, and flooding,” according to the resolution. It used a New York State Department of State grant to hire a team of experts to conduct a hazard risk analysis, public outreach, and compose the plan.
The town formed a committee comprising appointed members of the community and environmental organizations to oversee and guide development of the project. The committee voted in April to finalize CARP and recommend its formal adoption by the town. The plan and recommendation were presented to the town board in May.
Last Thursday’s vote also followed an Aug. 4 hearing on the plan, which notes that the currently projected range of sea level rise “will transform East Hampton into a series of islands with permanent submergence of low-lying areas as early as 2070,” with other long-term effects of climate change increasing the town’s vulnerability to coastal flooding and shoreline erosion. The study also concludes that the chance of a flood with a magnitude similar to that of the Hurricane of ‘38, at least once, is about 60 percent during the next 30 years.
Sea levels have risen about one foot over the last 100 years, but “future rates of sea level rise are projected to be much greater,” between 8 and 30 inches over the next 30 years, according to the plan.
The town “desires to maintain a sustainable and economically viable community, ensure public safety, maintain essential functions, prevent or minimize storm-related damages, protect natural resources, reduce the exposure of vulnerable assets, and facilitate a quicker response to and recovery from extreme weather or climate events,” according to the resolution.
The plan prioritizes 11 focus areas to address impacts of climate change and recommends ways to reduce vulnerability through planning initiatives, changes in regulations, emergency response to storms and other disasters, public works projects, public education, consensus building, and new funding sources.
CARP recommends an approach integrating “accommodate, managed retreat, and protect” strategies. This should include “relocation and property acquisition of select, very high-risk property” to be converted to open space and conservation land.
That aspect proved controversial during discussions of the Montauk hamlet study that has since been incorporated into the comprehensive plan. A managed retreat in downtown Montauk, in which vulnerable properties would be abandoned in favor of inland property through a transfer-of-development-rights mechanism, was eyed warily, if not skeptically, by some business owners.
But Laura Tooman, president of Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Alison Branco, director of climate adaptation for the Nature Conservancy in New York, and Kevin McAllister, founder of Defend H2O, all spoke in favor of the plan’s adoption at the Aug. 4 public hearing.
CARP, Ms. Branco said at the hearing, is “truly a nation-leading effort to prepare this town for the future with a lot more water, one where residents will adapt to live with all that water rather than fighting a losing battle against it, and one where residents and businesses can prosper, utilities and infrastructure can be secure, and the natural resources, which East Hampton has also been working for almost 100 years to protect, will have the room they need to continue to flourish.”