Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico stands at the end of Cranberry...

Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico stands at the end of Cranberry Drive in Mastic Beach on Wednesday near property the town recently purchased. Credit: James Carbone

An important step to protect Long Island’s coastline from sea level rise took place recently when Brookhaven Town bought 106 vacant properties in low-lying Mastic Beach to preserve them as flood-buffering wetlands.

That’s what should happen with such threatened parcels; the south shore of Mastic Beach floods routinely and the properties the town bought probably were not buildable. But the $1.35 million deal — $250,000 came from The Nature Conservancy — underscores the region’s daunting task of coastal protection.

There are 143,000 properties in New York State in danger of chronic flooding from sea level rise by 2100, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, of which 75,365 are on Long Island. Many already are developed, which makes buyouts more expensive and requires more planning; new homes must be found for people being voluntarily displaced. Plus, the state has no permanent buyout program to tap limited federal funding. One big help would be the $3 billion state environmental bond act proposed for the November ballot. It includes $250 million for a voluntary buyout program. That would help protect our coast with wetlands, and require the state to create the infrastructure for a long-term program.

Other communities are stepping up to the challenge. Lindenhurst Village is selling 39 Sandy-damaged waterfront properties to neighboring homeowners who agree not to build on them. The Town of Smithtown is considering purchasing low-lying properties to keep them undeveloped to absorb floodwaters. 

The sea continues to rise. So, too, must efforts to protect against it.

— The editorial board