October 23, 2021

Locals hope for environmental funds in NY budget

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A truck crosses over Trout Brook in McGraw on Saturday. Local officials are hopeful the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, which could help provide funding for environmental protection along streambanks, will be included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget this year after being held last year.

After being postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Cortland County officials hope the $3 billion Restore Mother Nature Bond Act will be included in the state budget this year to provide funding for environmental and climate-change related projects.

The act would be part of a five-year plan that would invest $33 billion in combating climate change by:

  • Reducing flood risk.
  • Investing in resilient infrastructure.
  • Restoring fish and wildlife habitats.
  • Preserving open space and enhancing recreational opportunities.
  • Preparing New York for the effect of climate change.
  • Creating transformational projects, especially in disadvantaged communities.

The act would provide funding for many different projects across Cortland County, said Amanda Barber, the district manager of the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District.

These include improve culverts and other infrastructure near water and working on addressing harmful algal blooms.

“There would be a lot of crossover for the work that’s already being done,” she said Friday.

A major part of the act — addressing flooding — could help with flooding in municipalities across the county.

Barber said funding from the act could be used by the district to stem streambank erosion, remove invasive species and restore wildlife habitat.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in July the act would be postponed for consideration until 2021.

“We’ll remain confident that things will happen this year,” Barber said, adding the state may be in a better position this year to enact it than last year as it works past the pandemic.

“I think the bond act needs to be in the budget this year for sure,” said Homer Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe. “We have had a historically warm winter, highlighting the impact of climate change, and with the carbon emission goals set by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, there is no time to lose.”

McCabe said the village is looking to install solar panels on the roof of the village’s Department of Public Works building and its new salt shed, which funding from the act might make easier.

“It’s a very important bill, and one of the components of a major focus on infrastructure improvements here in New York that will bring jobs and help our economy while also making necessary repairs, upgrades and new projects happen,” he said.

Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin said funding would help address flooding in the city. Much of the city was lucky to avoid the flooding other municipalities saw on Christmas day, but it has added urgency to address the problem.

“Every time we get stuff like that, we’re concerned,” he said.

Funding from the project could help the city continue improving the culverts that it has been doing for the last 20 years or so, Tobin said.

Additionally, it could help create a walking path along the eastern side of the Tioughnioga River near Yaman Park, though Tobin said that is just an idea at the moment.

This would be further work the city is doing to make an accessible waterfront with projects such as the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

“We recognize that water is a resource in a number of ways,” including for recreation, Tobin said.