All the East End towns have been taking disaster management pretty seriously since Superstorm Sandy, but Southold Town is lucky enough to be the first town to be able to incorporate the lessons learned from the storm into its comprehensive plan.
Southold’s planning department unveiled the latest chapter in its comprehensive plan, devoted to natural hazards, yesterday afternoon, and they will hold a public input session on the chapter this evening, Aug. 1, at 6 p.m. at the Peconic Lane Community Center in Peconic.
Planning Director Heather Lanza said the chapter was originally titled “Disaster/Emergency Response,” but was recently changed to reflect a new, pro-active approach to “hazard mitigation, coastal resilience, and post-disaster recovery planning.”
The science in the report is rather gloomy.
Southold has 220 miles of shoreline and more than 1,100 homes and many businesses located in the flood zone, and the chapter says that studies show sea level on Long Island will likely be two to five inches higher than it is now by the 2020s and could be as much as 10 inches higher by then.
The chapter also calls for mitigation and preparation for potential drought and heat wave emergencies.
“Local government is charged with responding immediately before and after natural disasters to protect its citizens,” reads the chapter. “Government has a shared responsibility with its constituents to plan and manage emergency resources.”
The town has had an emergency response team, which is activated during weather emergencies, since 1995, and has been working with Suffolk County on a Hazard Mitigation Plan, which includes recommendations to reinforce causeways with seawalls, to have the government buy land and houses in floodplains, the construction of emergency operations centers and the elevation of roads in floodplains. The chapter calls for the town to expand on those relationships, and also to prepare a coastal resilience plan and a set of guidelines for recovery and reconstruction after storms.
The full text of the chapter is available here.
Public input sessions will be held tonight, Aug. 1, at 6 p.m. at the Peconic Community Center in the old Peconic School on Peconic Lane; next Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 10 a.m. at the same location; and at the town’s Fishers Island meeting at the Fishers Island School on Aug. 7 at 11:30 a.m.
Southold isn’t alone in re-examining its disaster plans post-Sandy. Other towns on the East End are looking into coastal resilience plans to respond to threats of rising sea levels and more frequent storms, and East Hampton Town is forming an emergency preparedness task force tonight.