Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday the county will give $1 million in funding to support the planning and implementation of the county's coastal resiliency efforts. Credit: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone

Suffolk County officials announced Wednesday they will spend $1 million to plan coastal resiliency projects to counter the impact of stronger storms and increased flooding resulting from climate change.

A task force of environmentalists, county officials and others will identify expected effects of climate change in Suffolk and propose ways to reduce damage and protect communities, officials said.

Projects could include beach nourishment, wetlands restoration and open space acquisition, officials said.

"This is all of us stepping forward to say that we have to aggressively address coastal resiliency. And this funding and this committee is just the beginning," County Executive Steve Bellone said at a news conference in Oakdale.

Bellone noted the funding — from a new wastewater infrastructure fund created with $125 million from the 2021 federal American Rescue Plan — comes as Suffolk nears the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which caused widespread damage on Long Island.

Suffolk, with nearly 1,000 miles of coastline, already has experienced more intense storms and increased flooding, officials said.

"We are the most vulnerable. We're on the front lines," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said at the news conference.

Climate action is needed for Long Island to continue to be "economically sustainable" and "livable," Esposito said.

Suffolk County Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyack) said the initiative announced Wednesday builds on 2019 county legislation that earmarked $200,000 in the capital budget for resiliency planning. The new task force will consider how to spend that money.

"With this substantial investment, we have the opportunity to take bold and thoughtful action to mitigate climate change impacts with a focus on nature-based solutions," Fleming said in a statement Wednesday.

County officials said boosting resiliency before storms strike ultimately reduces costs, as it is less expensive to prevent damage than to have to repair it repeatedly.

"So it's time for us to get out of reactive mode, and reacting to every disaster, and start planning to adapt to all of these changes," said Alison Branco, Climate Adaptation Acting Director at The Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental group.

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