Editorial: Legislator’s effort to address rising seas is vital to our future

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, who grew up on a Peconic farm that remains in his family, is tackling the issue of climate change — what it will bring and what it has already brought to our region.

He knows, as do the Southold Town Trustees, who deal with water issues regularly, the East End towns’ other trustees and most residents with waterfront property, that change is underway now and has been for several years.

Waterfront property owners across eastern Long Island will tell you that routine high tides are higher by four inches or more and their docks are often underwater — even without an accompanying storm event. Storms, severe nor’easters and full moon events are another matter altogether. Sea levels now are higher than they were in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy bore down on us.

The coming costs of climate change will be massive: raising roads, building seawalls, the constant shoreline replenishment that waterfront homeowners demand every time a storm scoops out more of their property and, most likely, the relocation of some waterfront homes.

At some point in the near future, the real estate industry is going to hit the panic button when a prospective buyer with deep pockets rejects a handsome home on the water because of concerns about climate change.

Mr. Krupski has proposed forming a Coastal Resiliency and Sea Level Rise Task Force to develop policies and recommendations for the county and towns on how to preserve their coastlines. The group will have 21 members, from the county and the state DEC, along with representatives from each of Suffolk’s 10 towns.

In effect, Mr. Krupski — a former Southold Town Trustee — is proposing a super Board of Trustees for the county. As he said at Monday’s meeting of the Legislature’s public works committee, “Mother Nature’s not waiting.”

We applaud his effort and urge the Legislature to act quickly and decisively on this proposal. The task force needs to be staffed with scientists and other experts who can begin the process of mapping out how Suffolk’s 980 miles of coastline will be impacted by rising sea levels.

The task force also needs to be the gathering point for the latest data from state and federal officials, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This will help the task force publish regular reports on what the data shows is happening in real time and what is coming — a must for town and county planners as well as homeowners.

Mr. Krupski said the task force will also assess how local officials are spending money on infrastructure, if for no other purpose than to make sure routes can be kept open in the event of an emergency evacuation.

Climate change is here. Those officials on the national level who continue to scream hoax, who don’t want the United States involved in international climate treaties, need to be replaced with public figures who believe in science and are willing to act, as Mr. Krupski is doing.