Local Wetlands and Watercourse Regulations, Potential Tools for Floodplain Management: Lessons from Three New York Towns

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University of Delaware Disaster Research Center and The Nature Conservancy of New York
In a 2013 New York State survey, Riverkeeper, Inc. found that 78 municipalities had adopted wetland and watercourse regulations above and beyond those required by state law. As our analysis of Dutchess, Ulster, and Westchester counties illustrates, however, these regulations are not evenly distributed or necessarily adopted in areas of highest flood risk. We find that 78% of Westchester County municipalities have adopted wetland and watercourse regulations, while only 54% of Dutchess County municipalities have done so, and just 28% in Ulster County. Widespread adoption of wetland and watercourse regulations could significantly increase the ability of municipalities to govern their floodplains. To understand why some towns have adopted these regulations, and how they overcame the challenges inherent in adopting new local laws, we interviewed practitioners in three towns that have successfully adopted local wetland and watercourse regulations: East Fishkill, Dutchess County; New Paltz, Ulster County; and New Castle, Westchester County.